Philadelphia — Mississippi is fortunate to have quite a few independent bookstores. The newest one opened in April in Philadelphia by two California transplants and a retiree who returned home. It has a long name — Dancing Rabbit Press Gallery/Shop on the Corner — because it’s actually two bookstores in one.
Steve Stubbs owns the building and has one side of the bookstore to merchandise his Dancing Rabbit Press history titles. Sisters Joani Goudie and Cindy Runnells carry all kinds of books in the Shop on the Corner Books.
“The three of us are partners. It’s a different setup,” Goudie said. “It’s real cute and fun. People love it and they’re grateful we’re here. It’s very scary going into business and we need that support.”
Stubbs agrees that the community is supportive of the new business. “Everyone talks about how nice it is and how glad they are that the town has a place like this,” he said.
Born and reared in Philadelphia, he returned in 1997 after working as a professional money manager for 34 years. The building that houses the bookstore was built around 1910 and had its last major renovation in 1960. Under Stubbs’ ownership, it’s been given a recent facelift.
Goudie and Runnells are pleased with the store’s look and arrangement. “The two stores compliment each other,” Goudie said. “He’s on the green wall and we’re on the yellow wall in this one big space. It’s colorful and cheerful.”
She said the building has a new beautiful wooden door and a great window on the front to entice shoppers and browsers inside. Other touches include shelves from an old drug store and a 160-year-old quilt made by Stubb’s great grandmother on display. Local artwork is supplied by the community art council and is a changing gallery as pieces sell and are replaced with new ones.
There’s also a coffee bar in the back of the store complete with chairs and a couch for relaxing. Fresh sugar cookies are baked every day for munching with coffee.
“We’re trying to make it perfect and we’re getting ideas from customers,” Goudie said.
Goudie moved to Philadelphia when her husband’s job brought them here. Her sister, Cindy Runnells, came to visit and liked it so much she moved here, too. The two wanted a business to give Runnells employment. They thought about opening a bakery but felt the long hours wouldn’t be conducive with family life. Runnells has one child and Goudie has three.
Why a bookstore? “That’s what everyone wanted. We heard people talking about it and we went to restaurants and asked people what they would like here,” Goudie said. “I don’t think a chain bookstore would make it here because there’s not enough population.”
Working with Stubbs, the sisters began planning their bookstore in January. The grand opening on June 4 brought out a crowd and featured treats made from recipes in cookbooks sold in The Shop on the Corner. The trio takes turns running the store so they don’t have to be there all the time. It’s an arrangement they like.
The Shop on the Corner has fiction, children’s books, cookbooks and a whole lot more. Goudie says if there’s a specialty it’s the collection of books by Mississippi authors.
“We have a nice selection of Mississippi authors,” she said. “There are so many and they’re awesome. I had no idea before I moved here. Every day I learn something.”
Stubbs formed Dancing Rabbit Press to print and market the historical books he writes. As an historian, he was familiar with the significance of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit to the area. He carried over the name for his part of the bookstore.
His works include a Civil War book, “Duty, Honor and Valor: the 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, Neshoba at War, the Story of Men and Women in WWII,” and “Mississippi’s Giant House Party, the Neshoba County Fair.” He has also authored a family history and a soon-to-be-released 80-page pamphlet on the history of Holy Cross Catholic Church, the first Catholic church in Neshoba County.
The combined bookstores have book signings every month. Several Mississippi writers have participated and Goudie says the best weekends are when authors are in the store. Recent visiting writers included Walt Grayson, Dr. Darden North, Helen deFrance and children’s author Regina Richardson.
The bookstores are members of three associations including the Independent Booksellers Association, which provides the popular Book Sense newsletters free to members’ customers. The Shop on the Corner/Dancing Rabbit Press provides gift wrapping and three-day special ordering service for customers, too.
“There’s a lot of special ordering right now because our customers are letting us know what they want,” Goudie said, “and we try to keep them happy.”
She and her sister enjoy the slower pace of Philadelphia and have no regrets about relocating from California. “We appreciate things here,” Goudie said. “I just wish my brother and parents would move here too.”
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at firstname.lastname@example.org.