Austin is home to many independent businesses, but no one carries the torch of small business quite like BookPeople, a 52-year-old independent bookseller that claims the title of the largest of its kind in Texas. It still resides at just one highly praised location on North Lamar Boulevard, where it’s been since 1995, and there, it will host new and old friends to celebrate its anniversary on Friday, November 11.
Although it’s partially known for an unusually pleasant browsing experience — with a coffee shop, high effort displays for curated selections, and a truly gigantic inventory — BookPeople fits so snugly into the community by championing local and diverse authors. Most notably, it paired with the Austin Public Library in June on a banned book series, Banned Camp.
“The best part about this year is bringing those events back,” says CEO Charley Rejsek, reflecting on the revitalized calendar since pandemic shutdowns. “Everybody wants those experiences with authors that they know and love. We tried to translate them digitally, but that's really challenging. So having the events back and creating those experiences with readers and authors makes all the difference in the world.”
There’s no substitute for face-to-face connection, but the company’s Instagram page maintains its own outreach system, namely through several series including Gay Book of the Week, Sci-fi Friday, a BIPOC writer subscription box, and miscellaneous staff reviews. It puts out constant recommendations for all kinds of observances: Disability Pride Month, Voter Registration Day, Juneteenth, and more just in the past six months.
The anniversary festivities across the store’s three floors include book trivia, a raffle, a photo booth, and special merch sales. Book trivia is the main event, allowing participants to form teams to win $200 in BookPeople gift cards and $100 in CoffeePeople gift cards. The cafe will be open and serving a special-edition birthday drink.
Visitors get one raffle ticket at the door and can purchase more in hopes of winning signed books, posters, and even unreleased books. There will also be a silent art auction, selling pieces by local artists with all proceeds going back to the creator. A call for participating artists is active on the event page.
“BookPeople is definitely a community staple, and people look to us as a community gathering spot,” says Rejsek. “We, just like many other businesses, work hard to diversify our selection and the voices that we amplify, and that's just always ongoing. It never ends.”
The 52nd anniversary party will be held at BookPeople (603 N. Lamar Blvd.) on November 11, from 7-9 pm. More information about the event and BookPeople is available at bookpeople.com.