A Year of Success for Ernest & Hadley Booksellers

Easty Lambert-Brown knew she wanted to open a bookstore, but never told anybody. On a trip to Paris with her husband, she visited Ernest Hemingway’s Paris home, where he lived with his first wife. As Lambert-Brown looked through the camera at her husband posing in the doorway, she noticed a plaque describing the place where Ernest and Hadley had spent some of their happiest years.

“That’s it!” she said excitedly.

“Yeah, go ahead, hurry up and take the picture,” her husband replied.

“No that’s the name of the store!”

“What store?”

Since confessing to her husband that she was interested in opening a bookstore, Lambert-Brown’s dream has come to fruition. Now celebrating its one year anniversary, Ernest & Hadley Booksellers stands as the only independent bookstore in Tuscaloosa. “We noticed a real need in the community for a bookstore,” said Avery Leopard, store manager and daughter of Lambert-Brown. “Tuscaloosa was missing that.” Now, the cozy store offers a wide variety of books and book-related gifts like cards, pens and journals.

Leopard and Lambert-Brown are avid travelers, and like to stop by the independent bookstore in every community they visit. “You kind of get a sense and flavor of the city when you visit its bookstore.” Lambert-Brown said. “It’s kind of a barometer for everything that goes on in that city, in the little microcosm of a bookstore.” Ernest & Hadley sought to bring that element to Tuscaloosa, focusing on a comfortable, cozy space that reflected the community while giving an enjoyable shopping experience.

“We’re hitting a point in time where theres this element of nostalgia over everything,” Leopard said.  “Film, TV, people remembering their childhoods fondly thinking ‘Whatever happened to that?’ and for a lot of people, a bookstore fits into that pretty perfectly.” This resurgence of wistfulness for the past has proved beneficial for independent booksellers, who thought that the rise of Amazon and e-readers would put them out of business.

Appealing to an empty market and the trendiness of the bygone, Ernest & Hadley has found great success in their first year of business. “We’re just really excited about how it’s been received in the community,” Lambert-Brown said. “And kind of the general level of acceptance for an independent bookstore in general and because a lot of the indications five to ten years ago was that indies were going out of business.”

Ernest & Hadley’s success cannot be contributed to chance alone, for the independent bookstore offers a plethora of opportunities for book-lovers across town. While an independent bookstore reflect the communities interests through its book selection, Ernest & Hadley offers many other services that set it apart. Authors can hold book signings or other events. Poetry clubs, book clubs and other groups can meet at the 1924 downtown house. Ernest & Hadley assists book clubs in getting their books and offering discounts while keeping tabs on what local book clubs are reading. Also to gauge the community’s book interests, a chalkboard hangs in the back room for people to write down what books, authors, or genres they want to see.

“At the very beginning, we didn’t even have a sci-fi section,” Leopard said. “The community on the very first day that we opened let us know that they wanted to see a sci-fi area. They wanted to see sci-fi books, they wanted to see mysteries and thrillers, and so we really increased our collection based on suggestions by people who come in.”

Ernest & Hadley’s collection is not only filled with books suggested by customers and employees, but also with works from local authors. According to Lambert-Brown who has a background in publishing, other booksellers were shutting down their opportunities for local authors to have their books in stores. So Ernest & Hadley provides an entire shelf of books by local authors that cannot be found anywhere else. This invaluable outlet benefits these authors as well as introduces the community to a book they may not have seen.

“I like to to see the expression on peoples faces when they discover a new book,” Lambert-Brown said. The wide variety of works in Ernest & Hadley lends itself to a great deal of discovery. This bookstore differs from the typical bookstore in that its books are organized not by genre, but by theme. Shelves titled “The Other Side” contain theology, sci-fi and wellness books while the “Food Culture” section offers a unique collection of cookbooks that focus less on the recipe and more on the experience of learning about people through the things they eat. Instead of the typical travel logs that you see in bigger stores, Ernest & Hadley sells more personal memoirs in its travel section. Works from British, German, Spanish, and Italian authors can also be found in Ernest & Hadley’s growing international collection.

Ernest & Hadley Booksellers strives to be a resource for the whole community. Its events spark interest and raise literary awareness, which is a main goal for the independent bookseller, while offering a shopping experience unlike anything else in Tuscaloosa. “I want people to feel like they didn’t just visit a bookstore, they had an experience, and a good experience,” Leopard said. “We try to make it as cozy as possible. We really enjoy talking to people. We do love getting to know the community.”

“I want people to walk in a feel like they’ve just walked into a friend’s living room,” Leopard said.  “Come on in, sit a while, enjoy yourself”


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