The first time my 21 year-old son Henry visited us after our relocation to Frankfort, we took him downtown. He immediately disappeared into Poor Richard’s bookstore on Broadway. Once he discovered the bounty of rare volumes in the attic we had to send out a search party to retrieve him!
I recently had the opportunity to visit with Lizz Taylor, owner of this Frankfort treasure. Originally from New Jersey, Taylor attended UK and moved here when her husband Richard landed a teaching job at KSU.
Taylor got a job working part-time at Stevenson’s Books in a shopping center where the Capitol Plaza Hotel stands now. Three years later she purchased the store, by then named simply The Bookstore.
Taylor had a vision for a downtown location and knew what she wanted her store to feel like. “I found some ladders and shelving in an old shoe store that had closed so I grabbed them and stored them in my garage until I could find the right place.”
When she found the current Broadway location it was in need of some love. “It was being used for storage. I had to clean up, paint, fix the electric, and bring everything up to codes. Essentially it was just the four walls.”
After the relocation people kept calling the store Richard Taylor’s bookstore. Taylor thought, “We’ve got to do something about that name.” With the store being located in Franklin County named after Benjamin Franklin, the author of Poor Richard’s Almanac, she landed on Poor Richard’s Books thinking, “That’s the best I can do for now.”
38 years later and going strong, Poor Richard’s has survived a number of “bumps in the road” such as the advent of large discount retail stores, online book sellers, and e-books, not to mention the 2008 recession. The continued success of the store says something about the quality of the experience offered at Poor Richard’s.
Taylor and her staff have a commitment to “transmitting an enthusiasm for reading” to their customers, something one notices immediately upon entering the store. The staff engages visitors to discover their interests, sharing suggestions and ideas the reader might enjoy. Whether you’re in the market for “Potato Chips” like a Grisham novel, a nineteenth century medical journal, or everything in between, they’ve got you covered.
Amazon may be named after a jungle but it can’t compete with the living jungle that is the Poor Richards attic, full of one-of-a-kind books. “People usually find something they did not know that they wanted at all. But once they see it they have to have it.”
Poor Richard’s provides a community service, offering an experience more enriching than any visit to an online bookseller. Taylor sees Frankfort trending in a positive direction with continued progress and is excited about being a part of it. “I’m still having fun!”
As for the doomsayers who predict the death of the book Taylor sounds an encouraging note. “I see people still reading! Still delighted by the things they pick up!”
A life-long passion for reading is the best gift one can give a child. Do the children in your life a favor and bring them into Poor Richard’s. Let them touch and see and smell what a real bookstore feels like.
“If you’re a parent or a grandparent,” Taylor says, “the most wonderful thing you could ever do for a child is share time reading to them and buying them a book.” If the coloring book section I noticed on the east wall is any indication, it may just reawaken the kid in you!
Steve Siler is a song writer, and founder and director of Music for the Soul, a non-profit music ministry. He is writing this column on behalf of Downtown Frankfort, Inc., a Kentucky Main Street program.