I am proud to Keep Louisville Weird. There can be no greater compliment for a city than streets alive with quirky patrons and storefronts papered with local love. A city is its people, and Louisville is lucky to breed citizens with such an ardent taste for hometown loyalty. With its unique neighborhoods, plentiful art galleries and a truly never-ending parade of restaurants, our River City has quite literally blossomed over my lifetime into a pulsing, vibrant community. Few businesses have played a bigger role in this ever-evolving, local cultivation than Carmichael’s Bookstore. Both a local landmark and a neighborhood gathering place, Carmichael’s celebrates 33 1/3 years of books, history and keeping Louisville oh-so-weird.
Join both area locations this Friday, September 9 through Sunday, September 11 for special discounts honoring their 3-is-a-magic-number (as I am calling it) anniversary! Buy at least 3 items in the store and receive 33% off the entire purchase (excluding special orders, items already marked down, gift cards and a few specialized consignment and local interest titles). The occasion is also marked with a brand new Carmichael’s t-shirt design , fashioned to make your torso look cool and your friends jealous. Much like the 33 1/3 record (12 inch/ 30cm vinyl – ask a hipster), Carmichael’s is proof that some things never go out of style. In a decade when touch screens are favored over pages and the Internet is practically sentient, Carmichael’s Bookstore retains the simple pleasures of words on paper and has made reading relevant to generations of hip Louisvillians.
Carmichael’s Bookstore first opened its doors in April of 1978. Originally located at 1582 Bardstown Road (at the now famous corner of Bonnycastle), owners Carol Besse and Michael Boggs set up shop on a Bardstown Road still devastated from the 1974 tornado and – for the most part – desolate. Often, the only people to greet the staff some mornings were men preparing to sell blood at the nearby Plasma Alliance.
After five years, Carmichael’s relocated to its present and well-known storefront at 1295 Bardstown Road. Witnessing the birth of both Heine Brothers Coffee and Ramsi’s Café on the World, Carmichaels’ corner of Bardstown and Longest quickly became one of the most energetic destination hot spots in the entire city. The dense constellation of shops, restaurants and people transformed Bardstown Road from a deserted corridor into an epicenter of local livelihood.
Riding on the glowing success of its flagship, in 1999 Carmichael’s opened its sister-store in the Crescent Hill neighborhood, cuddling up to Blue Dog Bakery at 2866 Frankfort Avenue. Within four years, Carmichael’s would move just a few doors down to its current location at 2720 Frankfort Avenue and Bayly, where they once again witnessed a similar revitalization of the surrounding district.
Both a community favorite and an easy meeting place, Carmichael’s Bookstore laid the foundation for many other local businesses to take root. As a founding member of the Louisville Independent Business Alliance, they take an active role in keeping Louisville abuzz with eccentric and exciting new entrepreneurs. There can be no mistake that the neighborhoods Carmichael’s calls home are enriched by their presence. Community is something they take to heart.
Although both stores are small, they equally offer a wide variety of hand-picked titles that reflect both the tastes of the owners and the personalities of the neighborhoods they serve. Carmichael’s is a family business in the truest sense – now including a second generation – and seeks to further that identity by allowing its customers to visit seven days a week and every evening. This, at a time when the big box stores are now locking their automatic doors forever and selling off their empty bookshelves to a public too busy to read. Carmichael’s is bucking the trend by staying relevant to Louisville and taking the pulse of its readers.
Both stores – as well as the website – make sure to stock and display books by local writers, as well as titles pertaining to Louisville history, travel and interests. They are no strangers to literary company, hosting events, readings and signings for many area authors (such as Frank Bill ). Carmichael’s also offers books hand-bound by Larkspur Press of Monterey, Kentucky, a printing press dedicated to keeping the art of traditional letterpress alive. Clearly, paying homage to regional roots is not just a gimmick.
Here’s to 33 1/3 more years! Leave your ipod in the car, grab your bike and give a little love back. Carmichael’s has been dedicated to keeping Louisville local, literate and, yes, more than just a little weird for three decades; the city has grown up around their doors. A testament to the vigor of indigenous business, Carmichael’s continues to add their flavor to the ever-growing synergy between this community and its native entrepreneurs. Stop by this weekend and show your support for this Louisville literary landmark (alliteration, yay!). Pick out a trio of your favorite titles, sport a Carmichael’s t- shirt and above all else, buy local first.
Carmichael’s Bookstore has two area locations: 1295 Bardstown Road and 2720 Frankfort Avenue. Click here  for store hours.
For more information, send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org  or call either store at 456-6950 (Bardstown Rd) or 896-6950 (Frankfort Ave)
Photo: Courtesy of Carmichael’s Bookstore website www.carmichaelsbookstore.com