ON PAPER, the new bookshop in downtown Shawnee, Kansas, is owned by Halley Vincent’s mum.
But the 14-year-old will tell you it was all her idea, the culmination of her bake sales and handing out books in front of Shawnee City Hall.
As she rushed to Seven Stories bookstore every day after school to prepare for the store’s opening recently, a few passersby peek into its darkened windows.
“It’s been fun to see people excited about it,” Halley says, standing next to a wall of themed cookbooks.
Halley’s young-adult titles are lined up on white shelves next to memoirs, historical fiction and bright picture books. The store has 200 or so books in stock. Plus, a few shirts, cards and tote bags.
With a soft smile, she proudly shares that she’s the youngest member of the American Booksellers Association, a resource for independent bookstore owners like herself.
Halley sells new books in different languages – showcasing various religions and cultures. She shuffles around a shelf of books by local authors. A book written in Mandarin sits with other children’s books.
When Halley is busy with homework and school, mom Alisha Vincent plans to work in the store. Alisha admits she wouldn’t be in the book business if it weren’t for her daughter, a freshman at Shawnee Mission North, but now she’s just as eager for the bookshop.
“I get to see her doing something that’s really inspiring,” Alisha says. “She’s been a kid who is living her life now. She’s not waiting until she’s 21.”
Halley loves reading, Alisha says, but she’s more of a community builder than a bookworm.
“She is not the kind of kid whose face is always stuck in a book,” she says. “I think her passion for books is really about the conversations that people have.”
Halley may be an unusually young entrepreneur, but her journey to Seven Stories has been several years in the making.
In elementary school, Halley became interested in baking. She approached her mom about selling brownies and other treats.
Alisha consented, but she suggested Halley find a charity to receive the proceeds. Animal-loving Halley chose to give their money to local shelters.
Halley says she continued to find other ways to raise money for pets in need. So she gathered leftover donations from her family’s Little Free Library and began giving away books outside City Hall, asking for freewill donations for her new nonprofit, Paws Up KC.
She’s been giving away books for roughly three years, Halley says. She hops on her riding lawn mower and pulls a wagon behind it, filled with titles. Her “book mobile,” she calls it.
Love for books
Then came last fall, when Halley began filling a space inside her mother’s art studio. She wanted to sell these books for profit – enter Seven Stories.
Here was a place she could share her love of books. “I really love when people walk in, and they’re like, ‘That looks like me,’” she says.
She named it for her commitment to highlight seven new books each month to her customers.
“Those are the seven that we really push and talk about,” she says. She’ll have a special display for her recommendations.
Halley’s age and entrepreneurial spirit garnered attention for the tiny bookshop. As interest grew, so did Halley’s stacks of books.
“It was like the size of Harry Potter’s bedroom,” Alisha joked. “It wasn’t going to be enough room for her to expand into different categories of books.”
The pair closed the mini space six months after opening in hopes of finding a bigger place to sell books. Then a spot underneath the Shawnee Masonic Lodge opened up – JC Barber moved next door to a bigger spot.
The Johnson Drive location might technically be Halley’s second location, but it’ll be the first full-size space she’ll have just for her bookshop.
The bookshop’s opening is a big investment for Alisha, who says she has mixed feelings ahead of the opening.
“I mean, we’re thrilled, but it is also a little stressful because you’re thinking, ‘OK, what if they don’t receive this as well as we’re imagining?’”
She brags on her daughter’s grandiose thinking. A quality that, for some, only dwindles with age.
“In some situations, I think young people really have an advantage because there’s not this sense of limitations and barriers,” she says. – The Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service