It was always Lynn Roberts' dream to open an independent bookstore, and she has done just that in Diamondhead, Hancock County. Calico's House of Books opened in June of 2004 in a cottage style retail outlet with a welcoming red door located on Leisure Time Drive and is open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. six days a week.
With an Air and a Flair!
The shop has a homey atmosphere with muted shades of red, plum and eggplant and lots of white shelves. There's an inviting aromatic scent, classical music and complementary coffee.
I want my customers to feel comfortable and at ease," she said. "I used to hang out in bookstores, and I want people to relax. I can't give them the same thing that large stores give, but I can give them superior, cheerful customer service."
Roberts chose the name of her bookstore from the painting, The Calico Cat
by folk artist Susan Powers. She heard that tri-color cats are a sign of good luck and remembered a rhyme from early school days that went, "Youll be my bashful barefoot Joe --- and I'll be your Queen in calico."
"I e-mailed Susan Powers in New York and asked permission to use a copy of her painting for the store's sign," she said; "I thought I would never hear from her, but she wrote back and gave me permission to use it."
Calico's House of Books carries featured best-seller-list books, regional titles, popular fiction, reference, cookbooks, and other nonfiction that includes gardening, yoga, exercise, spiritual, and other interests. "But, this is Diamondhead, so I have to have some golf books because of our prominant golf courses."
How she got started!
The University of Southern Mississippi accounting graduate retired as the chief financial officer with the American Red Cross in New Orleans after 24 years with that organization. Since 1986, she and husband, Craig, had dual residency in Diamondhead before moving full time in 2000. Realizing that the unincorporated community had reached a 30 % growth rate with a population approaching 9,000, Roberts began her vision of a bookstore. She performed an informal survey, and eight out of 10 residents thought it was a good idea," Roberts said. There were already four reading groups and no County library.
She invested some retirement funds in the bookstore and remains optimistic that the business will continue to grow. "People are glad to have a local bookstore. Residents have been very pleased and stop by just to buy something to show their support for the store.
Services par none!
Roberts has a consignment system that no other area store is using. Customers can bring in used books for the back room shelves. When the books sell, the store only keeps a small commission.
"The customers are very happy with this arrangement," she said. "The first weekend that I was open, a lady who had just arrived from Las Vegas came in with five boxes of books. That was the beginning of the used book section."
Saying she's not a purist, Roberts also has audio books, greeting cards, and some gift items. She feels the few gift items don't take away from the books, but add an extra touch and interest.
"I recognize the value of audio books because my father was a stroke patient who lost his eyesight. Listening to books was very important to him," she said. "Audio-books are also enjoyed by commuters."
Roberts also handles requests for special orders and books for the reading groups. "I will hunt down that hard-to-find book. It may be something out of print and may not necessarily be a sold book," she said, "Sometimes it's an author's first book that had a limited printing, or the work of an author who doesn't sign books anymore. There's great value to book collecting."
This bookseller wants children to come to her shop and is thinking of starting a story time. She hopes to have volunteers come in and read to youngsters. Although she has some pottery in the store, she is careful not to have many breakable items around because she wants young readers to be at ease in Calico's.
She plans to bring in authors for book signings and add to the shop's selection of books.
"Little by little people are finding their way in, and I'm growing," she"said. "Independent bookstore owners will never get rich, but I love to get up and go to work. The biggest thing is that I'm happy with it and hope the people who come in are also happy to be here.
A Heritage Pronounced
The retired accountant grew up in Picayune; the daughter of Louise Carlisle Furr and the late Hollis Furr. Her mother taught her to read to herself at age three and Roberts has been reading ever since.
"Reading opens your mind to possibilities, and my reading tastes are all over the place," she says. "I will never censor anyone's reading. Adults have the right to read what they want."
Grand Opening --- August 27, 2005
Inspite of the Hurricane scare as many folks were boarding up and making evacuation preparations, many stalwart friends and book fans made their way to Calico's to visit the five authors who kept true to their committment to greet the many D'Head folks who attended the Ribbon Cutting by Diamondhead POA President, LLoyd Ramirez.
The five authors have a great cross section of history, romance, humor and children's stories.
Dan Ellis ... local heritage writer, has written 18 books on Gulf Coast histories including, Diamondhead, Bay St Louis, Kiln, Hurricane Camille, Slidell, Gulfport, Lighthouses, the Grand Hotels, and more. . . .
Cherie Schadler: Cherie is an author of two children's books: "Welcome to Bayou Town!" and "The Rain Came Down in Bayou Town!"
Mimi Heitzmann: Mimi wrote two romantic novels taking place along the gulf coast and has a new release coming out this fall.
L. L. Lee: Leona's books show her humor and include How To Survive Menopause Without Going Crazy, her fiction: Taxing Tallula, her sister's books "The Sisters: Lost in Brooklyn" and "The Sisters Found in St. Antonio".
Dale St. Amant: Dale's book is A Place Apart which is a combination of romance, the supernatural and a little history of Bay St. Louis.