Former owner Mary Gay Shipley said that That Bookstore in Blytheville reached a turning point when it began its relationship with author John Grisham.
“One of the things I always thought we were supposed to do is connect readers with the written word,” Shipley said. “Part of that was to provide an opportunity to meet authors. That was something I thought I needed to do.”
That Bookstore became known in the industry for organizing book-signings, Shipley said. Customers would line up out the door to meet Grisham and other authors.
“Mary Gay was an early advocate for both ‘A Time to Kill’ and ‘The Firm,’” Grisham, in an email to Arkansas Business, said of his first novels, published in 1989 and 1991. “She hand-sold hundreds of them and pushed them with great enthusiasm. For a rookie author, this was huge.”
“We were able to do things with those big-name authors, and we had the store during a time when celebrities began to write: Not only were writers thought of celebrities, but celebrities and politicians began to write, and we were able to host those events because the publishers believed we could handle them,” Shipley said.
The big-name authors don’t come around Blytheville so much anymore, Shipley said, favoring the larger-scale media tours. Shops like hers still have sway, but they are few and far between.
“In the old days, the indies welcomed rookies and created buzz about the new books,” Grisham said. “Sadly, that’s changed because most of them are gone.”
Still, authors and writers, especially local ones, make regular trips to That Bookstore. The autographs coating every surface of the shop’s wooden chairs are testament to that.