SOUTHERN BYWAYS BOOKSTORE PROJECT: PAGE & PALETTE

Page & Palette

Address: 32 South Section Street, Fairhope, AL 36532
Phone: 251-928-5295
Owner: Karin Wolff Wilson
Website: www.pageandpalette.com
Twitter: @PgPalettePirate

Karin Wolff Wilson inherited more than a love of books from her paternal grandmother, she inherited the family business! Page and Palette is, get this, a third-generation-family-owned independent bookstore, founded back in 1968 by Betty Jo Wolff. Is that cool or what!

Page and Palette in Fairhope, Alabama

(Just so you know, Betty Jo was very well regarded in the book industry for years, and a local foundation, the Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts, even named a writer-in-residence cottage after her.

Located on the beautiful eastern shore of Mobile Bay, Page & Palette is a Fairhope landmark, now serving the great grandchildren of their original customers. It truly is a gathering point for the community. Karin says it best, “We host book club functions, storytimes for kids and special live music performances. We are one of the first downtown businesses to open each day and definitely the last retail shop to close each night. Besides offering book recommendations from the classics to the latest bestsellers, we point customers to area restaurants, the famous Fairhope Pier, and the Marriott Grand Hotel in nearby Point Clear. We want to be the best example of Southern hospitality!

And they are! I recently found my way to Fairhope and what a treat. I spent a good part of the day snuggled up on one of their comfy chairs, drinking coffee, reading and talking to locals. Believe me, the staff is like family for a road-weary author, and I can’t wait to get back down there again. Of course, an opportunity to run into summertime resident Rick Bragg would be all the prompting needed.

Bragg (or Rick as I like to call him) is not the only big name in publishing that stops by Page & Palette. The store is an author-event-driven bookstore for sure and they’re customers are delighted by the national stature of the writers who include Page & Palette on their book tours. They have hosted winners of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Caldecott, the Newberry and even an Oprah Book Club author.

But this is one of my favorite stories from Karin: One afternoon in October 2009, some of the staff were in the midst of explaining to some customers the details of the Pat Conroy event scheduled for the following day. They were reciting the list of conditions that the publisher had sent when the program was scheduled. Then, from behind the crowd, the author himself stepped up to the counter and said “We’re going to change the rules”. He signed hundreds of books before the event and then entertained the audience of 300 fans for an hour and fifteen minutes before meeting readers individually to personalize their books and pose for photographs.

“We want to be the “Pat Conroy” of bookstores: hardest working, long lasting & with eclectic characters!” Karin says. And I believe her.

Karin and the amazing staff at Page and Palette

In addition to a deep book inventory, Page and Palette offers art supplies, religious titles, Bibles, greeting cards, calendars, journals, and a fabulous coffee shop “LatteDa” with complimentary WiFi. And the best part, yes it gets better, the entire staff is very supportive of the independent bookstore cause. Karin has served as president of the Southeastern Independent Bookstore Alliance (SIBA) and her publicist and assistant, Emily Bell (Roll Tide Roll!), currently serves on its board of directors.

So head on down to Fairhope and be sure and tell everybody I said hello. (BTW, they’re only closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter!)

Posted October 20, 2010 at 8:28 am · comment · Leave a Comment

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Susan Gregg Gilmore