Plaid Elephant celebrates 2nd anniversary

Published 3:00 am Saturday, July 22, 2023


When Danville resident Kate Snyder announced her intention to open an independent children’s bookstore in the fall of 2021, her efforts were met with enthusiasm…and skepticism.

“People definitely thought I had lost my mind,” said Snyder. “Opening a bookstore in a pandemic? That’s crazy.”

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Two years later, Plaid Elephant Books, located at 116 N. 3rd St. in Danville, has become a treasured community destination and many of the skeptics have turned into cheerleaders.

“Now when people come in, they tell me how happy they are that the bookstore is thriving and how grateful they are to have a shop like Plaid Elephant Books in our community,” said Snyder.

It turns out that Snyder was not alone in her decision to launch a new bookish venture during the pandemic. According to a May 2023 article in “Fortune” magazine, membership in the American Booksellers Association is at a 20-year high, with more than 173 new members joining the ranks in 2022. Snyder says that she counts among her closest friends several bookstore owners across the country who opened their stores at roughly the same time as Plaid Elephant Books.

“Thanks to online groups and peer networking, our pandemic cohort has really bonded and supported each other through the ups and downs of opening a bookstore,” she said.

In describing the store’s success, Snyder explains that she’s not out to compete with Amazon. Her goal is to offer value that online behemoths simply cannot.

“I can’t sell a book for half its cover price and ship it free overnight,” she said. “But Amazon doesn’t host events with local authors, or organize storytime, or pay local taxes, or sponsor community theater productions. Bookstores do that.”

During the past two years, Plaid Elephant Books has hosted several high-profile events with authors Heather Henson, Frank X Walker, George Ella Lyon, David Arnold, Kaitlyn Hill and Matthew Paul Turner, as well as showcasing dozens of local authors who either self-published or worked with small independent presses to publish their work.

Regular ‘character storytimes’ allow children to meet their favorite princesses and superheroes at special reading events and the store’s monthly musical storytime is a popular, free event for young families and combines a story with music and movement activities. Plaid Elephant Books has also been a cornerstone in the development of the monthly Third Thursday shopping events downtown, which this summer featured pop-up vendors from the Boyle County Farmers Market.

Working with other organizations to promote literacy has been one of Snyder’s favorite aspects of owning the bookstore. Plaid Elephant Books recently hosted two “Tails and Tales” events in partnership with the Danville Boyle County Humane Society, inviting children to come to the store and read to shelter pets. Over the summer, the bookstore coordinated storytime readers for a summer camp run by Trinity Episcopal Church and welcomed their campers to the shop for a field trip. The store’s Giving Tree has generated book donations for Sunrise Children’s Services, the Gladys Project, CASA of the Bluegrass and Kids Can Do Pediatric Therapy.

Since opening, the store has worked closely with local school districts on their literacy initiatives for families, supplying hundreds of books to the Danville Independent and Mercer County school districts for projects coordinated by their Family Resource Centers.

“I am always grateful when organizations choose to shop local with their book purchases,” said Snyder. “We are all working together to help kids in our community succeed.”

Snyder says that she also takes pride in the role that Plaid Elephant Books plays in supporting Danville’s growing tourism economy. She says she regularly has customers from throughout the region say that they came to Danville because they heard about the store. A recent example was of a young family from Lexington who drove down to spend the day participating in the Where’s Waldo hunt downtown. Snyder says she always makes sure to recommend that visitors eat at local restaurants and check out other area attractions like the Art Center of the Bluegrass and the Great American Dollhouse Museum while they are in town.

“Danville has so much to offer young families,” she said.

Plaid Elephant Books is hosting a party on Saturday, Aug. 5 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to mark the anniversary. In keeping with the whimsical ethos of the store, the party is billed as a birthday party for the store mascot – Penelope, the Plaid Elephant. Snyder says she sees the party as a way of saying “thank you” to members of the community for their support. The event will include free face painting, craft projects and cookies.