Parnassus Books hits the road with bookmobile

Photo: WKRN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The two owners of a locally owned bookstore are now taking their love of books on the road.

Ann Patchett and Karen Hayes opened the Nashville-based store Parnassus Books in 2011.

Photo: WKRN
Photo: WKRN

The store is named after a book called “Parnassus on Wheels,” which is about a woman who travels the countryside in 1917 in a horse-drawn caravan selling books.

With the book as their inspiration, the women are now expanding their business with a bookmobile.

“I looked online for quite a while, several years. I finally found one [a book mobile] on eBay. [It was] $10,000 and it was located south of Atlanta so I could go and get it. It had been a three county library system that had it, and it was a 1990 vintage vehicle and was still in great shape.”

And just like that, Peggy, short for Pegasus, was born.

Book seller Grace Wright is the book mobile’s keeper, which has been out and about around town for three weeks.

“People come in and they remember bookmobiles from their childhood. It was the most magical part of their childhood and they love that it’s been resurrected. Or people peak their head in, and they’re not sure what to think, and come on board. Everybody who comes on is so enchanted and excited and willing to just be caught up in this project that we started. Talking with them and getting to experience their happiness is just, probably the most wonderful thing I could imagine,” she said.

Photo: WKRN
Photo: WKRN

Customers, like Jeff Kirkwood, agree.

“It’s a great store, and to have it in the neighborhood on wheels, and moving around Nashville, doesn’t get any better than this. I’m excited about it,” he told News 2.

Cathy Jennings said she thought she would stick to her Kindle when she started her master’s program at Belmont University, but she said there’s something special about reading a physical copy of a book.

She added she loves the access the book mobile gives to literary enthusiasts.

“There’s something very physical and satisfying about having an actual book in your hand. Seeing the covers and walking through here, it’s very nostalgic and very magical,” she said.

The Parnassus on Wheels project is a true testament to the bond between Nashville’s local businesses.

Wright has been amazed by the willingness of other local shops to embrace Peggy.

Photo: WKRN
Photo: WKRN

“The businesses we have contacted have been so gracious and so open and gone above and beyond and really created tiny little homes for Peggy all over Nashville. That’s really guided our parking schedule, having a relationship with these incredible businesses that we love as patrons, and get to partner with as a business,” she explained.

Wright believes the great “grand dream” for the bookmobile is for it to turn into a traveling community center, providing access to physical books for communities that would not have access otherwise.

“We’ve had so many people come out of their houses and just walk down the street. To have a place like the Parnassus brick and mortar where people come to buy books, to talk to their friends, to hang out with their children, to create magical memories, we really want to make it as easy as possible for people to find their next favorite read,” she said.

The bookstore owners both say their wish is to ultimately reach more people.

“Our register tells us if we have people who have been to see us before, and I’m seeing so many new customers. It’s reaching people that we haven’t reached before which is really exciting for us. We’re around town and bringing back memories and making new ones. Bringing books to the people and getting kids excited about books. It’s all really fabulous.” Hayes said.

You can find out where Peggy will be parked every week on Facebook, Twitter or Parnassus Books’ website.

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