Nestled amid a row of quaint antique stores in Huntington, West Virginia’s Old Central City district, Cicada Books & Coffee is providing a welcome respite to visitors, while bringing a long-held family dream to fruition for mother-daughter owners Dawn and Katie Norman.
Owning and operating Cicada – a name which conjures a sense of rebirth and fresh starts – isn’t the first time the Normans have worked together, but it is a venture that has been a family dream for many years.
“My parents wanted to start a bookstore when they moved to Huntington from California about 25 years ago,” Katie recently told Tri-State Living magazine. “They collected books for a long time, but they never found the right space for it.”
The revitalization happening in Old Central City, however, rekindled the idea. When the building that became Cicada went up for sale, the pair saw the potential and, after more than a year of planning, preparation and renovations, Cicada opened its doors to readers in 2018.
The shop’s vibrant exterior, purple epoxy floors, and vintage furniture create a warm and inviting space for book and coffee lovers alike. The front half of the large space contains the coffee bar, offering freshly brewed coffees, teas, and locally sourced pastries, while the back half is reserved for used books. The space offers generous café seating, while a variety of cozy couches, chairs, and tables scattered throughout the shop provide ample space for bibliophiles looking to get lost in a good book, of which the shop certainly has many.
Initially stocked with inventory garnered from other suppliers, the shop quickly amassed a sizeable – and ever-expanding – collection of donated books from a variety of genres. A large children’s section leads into an impressive collection of mysteries and general fiction, with smaller sections devoted to regional works, gardening, biographies, and others, including a shelf of books sold on consignment from local authors. Some “dollar boxes” offer readers intriguing titles on the cheap, while those willing to take a gamble can go on a “blind date with a book” by purchasing one of the shops pre-wrapped titles with only the genre visible.
With the goal of becoming a community gathering place, Cicada Books & Coffee welcomes customer input and routinely expands its offerings, which have grown to include game nights, movie nights, a book club, and open mic nights in which writers and readers can share their own work or read from favorite authors. They’ve even hosted speed dating sessions for both straight and gay community members.
It is part of the Normans’ vision to create a space that isn’t home and isn’t work, but a space where one can go to enjoy the company of other like-minded people – all brought together by a love of books.
COVID-19 Update: When the coronavirus pandemic forced Cicada to close its doors to the public in March 2020, the Normans found a creative way to continue providing books to the community. Two days a week, the shop opened for drive-up “mystery box” purchases. Customers could pull up or call to discuss their genres of interest and receive five hand-picked books selected by staff for $20. I asked for a selection of classics and mysteries and got a thoughtful and interesting mix.
Cicada Books & Coffee is located at 604 14th Street West, Huntington, WV 25704.
For more about Cicada Books & Coffee and other West Virginia bookstores, order a signed copy of Bookstore Explorer: West Virginia!