Since opening Pikeville, Kentucky’s Book Notes in the fall of 2000, owners Toby Weingarten and his mother, Glenda Hall, have seen a lot of local businesses come and go and the rise of online shopping and e-reading. But through it all – even a global pandemic that closed their doors for several months in 2020 – the small shop has persevered.
Located in a shopping plaza in the rural town, Book Notes is warm and welcoming, yet sparsely stocked while I was there – a side effect of the times.
“When we opened, all the shelves and the hutch were full,” Glenda says, recalling bustling early years and events like when author Robert Morgan launched his national book tour at the shop in 2008 for his Daniel Boone biography, Boone. “But things slowed down way before the pandemic hit. After that happened, the governor closed us for three months. It was difficult to try and get started again after that, but right now we’re the only bookstore here in town.”
Despite its limited stock, you’ll find several interesting titles on the shelves of Book Notes. The inventory is all new and mostly trade paperback. There are sections devoted to the usual genres – general fiction, mystery, classics, children’s and so on. And each month, Toby erects a display pertinent to the calendar: horror during October, cookbooks in November, and crafts and hobbies in December. There’s also a New Releases board at the front of the store, updated with new books available for order.
In fact, special orders is how much of the business is done. As their website states, “Special orders are our specialty.”
“We try to have a little bit of everything,” says Glenda. “But now, unless it’s a special order, we try not to do too much, because everybody is hurting. They’ll buy a trade paperback as opposed to a hardcover. We do our hardcovers as special orders.” Interestingly, the shop also offers book delivery. “If somebody needs a book, and they don’t have a way, we’ll deliver it as long as it’s not 30 miles out of the way or something, although we’ve been known to do that, too!”
The store is also, at least for now, cash only, but they’re considering card options like Square.
Book Notes is, at its core, a classic smalltown bookshop, with friendly and talkative owners who know many of their customers by name and don’t mind going the extra mile to meet their needs. It’s a shop like many of the businesses in the part of Appalachia were it resides – and near where I grew up. You may enter as a stranger, but you’ll leave as a friend.
“I’ve talked your ear off,” Glenda says with a smile after we’ve chatted for probably 45 minutes.
“Oh, I’ve enjoyed it,” I reply, “but I do need to get on the road home.”
“Well,” she says, “you be careful. We’re expecting some bad storms.”
Had she also said, “Watch for deer on the four lane,” I wouldn’t have been a bit surprised.
Book Notes is located at 180 Town Mountain Road, Suite 103, Pikeville, Kentucky. Open Monday through Saturday.