Area bookstore owners provide tailored service despite Barnes & Noble imminent return
Barnes & Noble expected to return to the Crossroads at The Uptown Shopping Center at South Caraway Road and East Highland Drive
Delta Digital News Service
April 26, 2023
By Avery Jones | Editor
WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. – After an absence of nearly three years, Barnes & Noble is returning to the Jonesboro area. Previously located at the Turtle Creek Mall, the bookstore was one of several retail properties destroyed on Saturday, March 28, 2020, when a tornado ripped through the city.
According to a press release from local real estate developer Haag Brown Commercial, the new Barnes & Noble is slated to move into the former Pier 1, and most recently Spirit Halloween, location.
In the wake of the Jonesboro Barnes & Noble’s closure, a few independent bookstores popped up in the Northeast Arkansas area, including Eclectic Geekery in downtown Walnut Ridge. While the return of Barnes & Noble is exciting, fear the large chain could negatively impact the smaller local bookstores is rising.
Eclectic Geekery is run by two sisters, Megan Heyl and Sarah Brown. It opened in February 2022, and the store offers both new and used books, as well as things considered “geeky” such as graphic novels, manga and fantasy and board games.
The sisters started working on their bookstore when Brown called Heyl to tell her about the location space becoming available. They decided to combine a book and game store because Brown had always wanted to open a game store, while Heyl had dreamed of opening a bookstore.
Heyl had always wanted to work for herself and also wanted to make a space tailored to underrepresented communities in the area. She had planned to start working on a bookstore in 2020 but decided to postpone it when the pandemic arrived.
Their primary struggles when first starting work on their bookstore was renovating the old building. A damaging roof
leak was the worst of the issues. Their supply of books and games began out of what they had in their houses. They were able to open in about a month thanks to their frugality. “We are very passionate about what we do, which is being pretty selective in our books and offering event space and things for people to do locally,” Brown said. “Our new books are pretty much curated towards LGBTQ and black and indigenous voices.”
Because of their specially curated collection and community support, Heyl and Brown believe that they’ll be able to compete with Barnes & Noble. They sell many things that Barnes & Noble doesn’t have. They’re able to curate their selection specifically for their community because they personally know many of these people and know what they want, which is something a big bookstore isn’t able to do. They have to curate for the general population.
“With small bookstores, you get to know your patrons and the patrons get to know the employees better,” Anthony Tillman, an Eclectic Geekery patron, said. “They actually can get a feel for what everyone in the area prefers. The big ones, they just stock what’s popular.”
While Barnes & Noble may have the advantage of the larger scale of business, small independent bookstore owners like Brown and Heyl are confident that their specialized services will continue to be vital for local communities.
Avery Jones is a sophomore in the Department of English and Philosophy at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Feature photo by Avery Jones.