The Official Grand Opening of Union Avenue Books

Melinda Meador and Flossie McNabb, Co-Owners of Union Ave. Books

It’s been open for a few weeks – but now it has opened in grand style. A glance through the windows at Union Avenue Books for much of the the last few weeks reveals a brisk business. A gander through those same windows this week would have revealed large masses of book lovers reveling in the long awaited official grand opening of same.

Crowds often swelled outside onto the sidewalk.

Urban Girl takes in the sales racks next door at Reruns.

The events followed one after the other all weekend, with many of the same face showing up for more than one, but with slightly different crowds attracted to the various events. More special events and regularly scheduled happenings are promised for the coming months and, if this weekend is any indication, you might want to come early to get the best seats in the house.

Jake and Bunny man the registers.

Due to a previously scheduled (wonderful and appreciated) dinner with friends, I missed the Thursday night reading by British author and psychologist Ros Taylor, though I subsequently picked up a copy of her book Confidence at Work: Get It, Feel It, Keep It. They have more copies or you can explore it on Amazon at the link provided.

Author Andrew Goldsmith between customers outside Union Avenue Books

Nancy Brennon Strange and Band at Union Avenue Books

I did make it for part of the event on Friday night. UT Press sponsored a “Meet the Authors” night and wine and cheese were provided for all present. The authors included Michael Knight whose book The Typist I’ve touted before. It is a tale of a soldier who was the typist for General Douglas MacArthur in Japan during the occupation following World War II. I bought a second copy for a gift. Additionally, Andrew Goldsmith, an Iraq War veteran sat at an outside table signing copies of his book Zarqawi’s Ice Cream: Tales of Mediocre Infantrymen, which is an accounting of him time in that war. Nancy Brennon Strange offered the delightful musical entertainment and her version of Patsy Cline is not to be missed. I think it takes a lot of nerve to attempt her songs and she did a fine job.

Tom Post of UT Press introduces Jack Neely

Jack Neely gives a nice intro to Union Avenue Books

The crowd listens to Jack Neely

Tom Post, the publicist for UT Press introduced Jack Neely who said a few words. He told the story of a French couple he met on the streets in downtown Knoxville who stopped him and asked him where the “book shop” was located. Not if we had one, rather where it might be found, because any legitimate city would have one. He sent them to the UT campus, but was embarrassed to have to confess there was no downtown bookstore. He also lauded the choice of the name which, in itself, tells people where to find the store. Someone from the back pointed out that the name was his suggestion in the first place and he said he had hoped no one would mention that.

Linda Carlini from Knox Co. Public Library leads a children’s event

Saturday morning brought a children’s program presented by Linda Carlini who read several books to the children, including that all-time favorite that parents grow to dread, Goodnight Moon. Of course, it is a lovely book, but children never seem to tire of it and by the thousandth reading, it runs a bit thin for most adults. The children were spellbound. She also brought out peek-a-boo bunny and the counting puppet. Great fun. Probably a half-dozen children enjoyed the entertainment while their parents and other customers browsed.

Urban Toddler reads Goodnight Moon to a stuffed cow at Union Ave. Books

This also points out something that surprised me about the space: as small as it appears to be, there are several discrete places for various events. The children’s program was behind the counter on the backside of the store, music and readings are easily accommodated on the front end of the store and the children’s book section is neatly enclosed from the rest of the store for easy management and free-roaming for the younger clientele.

Y’uns perform at the Union Ave. Books Grand Opening

Crowds browse, eat, purchase, greet and listen to Y’uns at Union Ave. Books

Y’uns perform at Union Avenue Books

Saturday night the house was packed for Y’uns featuring Steve Horton, Danny Gammon and sometimes harmonica player extraordinaire Michael Crawley. Food, drink, excellent music and books: not much missing from that equation.

Flossie introduces Linda Parsons Marion, the first of the monthly poets

Linda Parsons Marion reads from her book Bound

Sunday featured a poetry reading by Linda Parsons Marion reading from her new book, Bound. This volume of her poetry deals with family from her grandparents to her grandchildren, but since the reading was held on Father’s Day, she read poems mostly about fathers and grandfathers. The crowd of around twenty-five enjoyed the emotionally packed reading. I’m helpless: I bought that one, too. If I understood correctly, the third Sunday afternoon of each month will feature just such a poetry reading at Union Avenue Books.

A crowd of about twenty-five listen as Linda Parsons Marion reads poetry.

So, it was a great weekend full of wonderful events, great friends, books and food. Now comes the important part: Knoxville decides if we love books enough to have a downtown bookstore. You vote with your money. Come spend it. I can’t do it by myself (though I appear to be trying). It will take all of us backing up our words with purchases to show that Knoxville truly does value books, writers and the written word. We’re about to make a statement about who we are. I hope it’s a good one.