Trendsetters: The Story Shop - Once Upon a Time
It’s easy to get kids inside, but very hard to get them to leave The Story Shop, a children’s bookstore in downtown Monroe. They could have a tea party in the Hobbit house, duck into a wardrobe for a visit to Narnia or read in an overstuffed chair.
“People want experiences, and I want children to experience books,” says owner Melissa Music. “My goal is to bring books to life and to help children realize that books are treasures.”
Opened in 2016, the bookstore is housed in a converted warehouse and what was the longtime home of The Walton Tribune. Music worked with a general contractor to move walls, install book-related features and create cozy, book-themed spaces. A local muralist painted whimsical messages and quotes from books on different walls. One sign says, “There is a child in all of us.”
Music spent eight years in the U.S. military, then worked with her husband to build their family-owned plumbing company. After selling the company, her husband asked what she wanted to do, and she blurted out, “Open a children’s bookstore.”
She had no experience running a bookstore, but she was an avid reader. And she knew firsthand about the bond that forms between an adult and a child when they read together. She and her husband have four children, and they’ve grown up reading books and being read to. “There’s a shared language when you share stories,” Music says.
From 2009 until today, there’s been a 40 percent increase in the number of independent bookstores across the country. The Story Shop is one of several locally owned businesses bringing families and tourists to downtown Monroe.
Besides selling books, Music and her staff also offer book-themed birthday parties. You can choose from Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter or Beauty and the Beast. It’s not unusual on a Saturday for The Story Shop to host three birthday parties. The store has held retirement parties and Peter Rabbit-themed baby showers.
The staff also brings books to life. During Fashion Week in New York, the store sponsored a Fancy Nancy fashion week. (Fancy Nancy is a series of children’s and young adult books by Jane O’Connor featuring Nancy Clancy, a little girl who loves fashion and France.) For Cinco de Mayo, there was a family fiesta featuring the book Dragons Love Tacos.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings, The Story Shop hosts story time in the wardrobe that opens into a model of Narnia. There are visits from groups of elementary school children. Author visits also bring in customers.
“When we started, I had no idea about what I didn’t know about selling books. I just knew I love books and reading,” Music says with a laugh. “But I guess you could say that I’m learning as we go.”