Tiffany Phillips, the owner of Wild Geese Bookshop in Franklin, Indiana, has been teasing her Instagram followers for far too long. Beautiful image after beautiful image relayed glimpses of the shop in progress.
There was the unwrapping of gift items for the shop, the hanging of light fixtures (whose former home was once the high school), and an old cigarette shelf received new life (and a coat of paint), in order to hold journals, mugs, and an assortment of related books.
Finally, the weeks of waiting are over. Wild Geese Bookshop is open and ready for business. With a soft opening that occurred mere days ago, my oldest and I were thrilled to be among the first to step inside this independent Indiana bookstore on opening day.
Other small business owners and community groups popped their head in to see how it was going. Everyone “oohed” and “aahed” as they moved around the cheery, comfortable space. It’s hard to believe the building was once a US Navy recruitment office, the kind of place not typically known for its visual appeal.
Step Inside Wild Geese Bookshop
It would be impossible not to thrill a little at the rows of orderly books all snug in their shelves. The rest of the furniture, all sourced from local places, looks right at home. They were sourced from locally-owned destinations. The podium, one of several finds from Vintage Whimsy, is in good company. There’s also the pieces from The Rugged Roost and Madison Street Salvage (of which all proceeds directly benefit the historic, and incredible, ArtCraft Theater).
For those of you who don’t know, my parents own a video sale and rental store in DeMotte–Movie Madness–and this bookstore brings to mind a classic movie. You know exactly what one I’m going to say, don’t you? Shop around the Corner, with Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart. It’s just like that, or even the remake, You’ve Got Mail. It has that kind of magical feel. While I was there, another woman was next to me, and we joked how we couldn’t stop touching everything. It’s so wonderfully arranged it brought out my inner two-year-old.
After browsing such a thoughtful inventory, you would be surprised to learn that Tiffany Phillips doesn’t have a background in merchandising. Tiffany is a lawyer, who works remotely, by day. What the what?
For Love of Community: Downtown Franklin Bookstore
A year ago, Tiffany’s husband got a job at Franklin College. So, this family of four moved. While driving downtown, she saw a little space with a shingle hanging out, and thought: “I need a space to work outside my home.” She called and learned that it was 700 feet total. It was perfect. She could do her paralegal work in the back area with room for…something else in the front.
Why a bookstore? Why not a bookstore. Tiffany is an avid reader, consuming memoirs and fiction usually written by women. She enjoys the “more authentic reflection on humanity” and is always seeking out the next great read. Opening a bookstore of her own was something she had wanted to do “forever and ever.” She joked that she could have given a short answer, that “bookstores are pretty and smell nice.”
Her day job revolves around conflict, end-of-life issues, and emotion–but she’s always had a creative outlet of some sort, whether it was a blog, photography, or something else. Wild Geese Bookshop will provide her with a new, much larger, creative outlet.
With her 40th birthday coming up in the spring, she said that it “felt like a deadline.” She asked herself, “How can I use what I have to help people?” Other places she lived either already had a bookstore or the community wouldn’t support one. “I needed Franklin as much as Franklin needed a bookstore.”
Books in the New Bookstore
How did she stock all of these fabulous books? The initial inventory wasn’t easy, there’s no knowing what customers will want. She chose books based on other independent booksellers, the bestsellers list, popular regional faves, and opted for fun literary books for young adults. Tiffany stocks books that will add value to the person reading them. Ninety-nine percent of them are new.
She joined the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association too. Social media feeds and asking people about their favorite titles also helped her select books. She looked to Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN, for inspiration. It served as a kind of “gut check” for which she’d ask herself, “Am I missing something?” After browsing through the shelves–I’d say “Not one bit.”
“Everybody can go on Amazon but you can’t browse books in a meaningful way,” said Tiffany. She enjoys the “serendipity” of discovering a book. You know how that feels, right? When you find the perfect book at the time you needed it the most? Fortunately for her customers, her distributor is also in Indiana–so she can get in books much faster than other places.
She wants Wild Geese Bookshop to be a place where teens can head after school, to go to Suzy’s or Benjamin’s, bring something back, and look around. After folks go “vintaging” and picking at the flea markets, they can make their way there too. She noted that it’s a place where college kids can bring their parents or for friends visiting out of town.
Expect the Unexpected: Gifts Inside Wild Geese Bookshop
After a childhood bike accident left her stuck in bed, her grandma sent her a sunshine box to cheer her. Wrapped in construction paper, little yellow boxes each had a present inside. After every treatment, she got to open a box. Tiffany wanted a “place with little gifts like that.” Things to say, “I’m sorry you are hurting, gifts with a give back component to let someone know they are special, not stuff for stuff’s sake.” In the south, it’s called a sercie, an unexpected gift to let someone know you care. She strives to “find gift inventory that would go well with a book.” She definitely succeeds.
Custom mugs from Sarah Klein, author of Hand Lettering 101: An Introduction to the Art of Creative Lettering, would make a thoughtful gift. I love the journals. Any list-maker will want to check out some of the neat agendas, especially the Get to Work Book from Elise Joy, author of 100 Pep Talks. Book-themed totes feature fab quotes and prints from Obvious State. I’m apparently drawn to designer Mr. Boddington’s Studio. I kept messing with a packet of prints and clever cards. They are adorable. Are you reading this, husband? Add that to *my* Christmas wish list.
The give-back aspect is evident in several gifts. Hand-in-Hand bars of soap that provide a bar of soap and clean water for children in need for one month with every purchase. No matter if it is lotions or art, the nurturing gift items come from companies that give back. You’ll find bath bombs that dissolve, smell great, and hide a toy inside. Don’t tell our bath-loving youngest, but his big brother picked up a ninja bath bomb to surprise him with at Christmas. Next time, the theme of the gifts will probably change. If you see it and want it–get it while you can.
Events at Wild Geese Bookshop
There’s also book signings and other book-related events. Yes, even I plan to do an author signing at Wild Geese Bookshop on Shop Small Saturday (the time to be determined). You’ll also want to visit November 19 for the Gilmore Girls launch party featuring Gilmore-themed giveaways, a harpist, and 10% off for anyone who shows up dressed as their favorite Gilmore Girls character.
She aims to carry items to coincide with movie events at the ArtCraft, like Jane Austen books and items, when they have their “Wine and Cry” event, as well as The Notebook. Whenever there’s an author reading at Franklin College, you can bet she’s not only stocking their book, but also their recommendations on good reads.
But what if you don’t know what you want? I get in those moods, too. Take a look at Franklin, Indiana Reads. She didn’t want staff picks, she wanted Franklin picks. These are book recommendations from locals about their favorite books. It’s like having your BFF pointing things out to you that you might have otherwise missed. Grab a card and suggest your own favorite.
For Tiffany, her favorites include Eudora Welte (when she’s homesick), Elizabeth Strout, and the book A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh–to name a few. Positive self-help books or, as she says, “how do I do this adulting thing,” and books about creativity are also a win to Tiffany. “I’m pretty much a garbage disposal,” she laughed, “I’ll read it all.”
Must Love Books
The categories here are carefully labeled and run the range. While there are no little kid books or board books here, as her selection begins with middle-grade levels and chapter books, I did notice books that our own first grader was reading, if that gives you a better idea of the available age range. There is (according to my book lover of an eleven-year-old) excellent books. On the way home, out of the blue, my son pipes up from the backseat, “Wow, Mom. That bookstore had everything I want to read.”
We discussed books for a minute (and my inability to not touch everything on display at the shop) before he continued with this unexpected bit of wisdom: “You know, Mom, I like that she didn’t have to open a bookstore, but she did. People will go to her store because they want to. I really like Franklin.”
I get what he’s saying here, we are irritatingly alike in many ways, but the idea is this: there are small businesses that support families and there are big businesses that support private jet-owning CEO’s, and some people just don’t care enough to stop and visit the small businesses. But not here. People popped in and out of Wild Geese Bookshop constantly. She received flowers from her 93-year-old next door neighbor. Others stopped by to wish her well–and to take a look at the merchandise. Her husband, George Phillips, an associate professor at Franklin College, also stopped by to say “hello.”
With such a welcoming reception for her soft opening, it will be so much fun to see how she grows from there. Follow Wild Geese Bookshop on Instagram for a taste of what to expect, the latest news, irresistible product reveals, and perhaps even “a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils.”
I’m Jessica Nunemaker and THIS is Little Indiana. Just don’t forget to tell them that Little Indiana sent you.
Wild Geese Bookshop
107 S Water Street
Franklin, Indiana 46131
Store Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 10 AM – 6 PM
Sunday & Monday: Closed
As always, please call ahead to verify hours before making a special trip.