Nestled between crumbling brick storefronts and restaurants, Main Street Books is a beloved staple in the Historic District of St. Charles, Mo. Among the knotty pine wooden panels and cozy ambience, University alumna Emily Hall (’11) feels at home navigating the displays of bestsellers and sorting through piles of unread books. Hall and her parents took over the popular bookstore in an unexpected turn of events.
Hall’s mother heard the previous owner of Main Street Books, Vicki Erwin, was planning on retiring and closing. She offhandedly suggested buying the bookstore to her family and, in particular, her daughter. After working as a personal assistant at an insurance company, Hall was looking for something else to give her a sense of accomplishment.
“It was a decided family effort that hinged on me, but I thought I could handle it,” Hall said.
Her love of books feeds her passion for the bookstore. In an industry competing with e-readers and tablets, Hall believes there will always be people who want print books. Through coffee stains and folded corners, she says the pages of print books convey history and moments in time.
“A book doesn’t need batteries, doesn’t need to be turned off and you don’t have to take it out of your bag at airport security,” Hall said. “Plus, an author can’t sign a Kindle.”
In February, Hall and her parents officially signed the papers as joint owners of the bookstore. While her parents will provide financial support and assistance, Hall will control the day-to-day operations. Her long-term goal is to own at least half of the business within the next five years.
Erwin has helped Hall transition into her new role by providing knowledge of the industry. Besides helping customers, Hall’s duties revolve around meeting the representatives of publishing houses, devising a marketing strategy and ordering books for the store.
Hall is not expecting to make big changes to the face of the store. Besides adding her personal touches, she is looking to expand the young adult literature section. Hall is also hoping to providing a structured place for a reading group that would be accessible to young adults.
Although not in her original career plan, the process has been both terrifying and exciting. Her time in college helped to inspire and encourage her to pursue different paths. Hall graduated from Truman with an English degree. Since her experience with the Joseph Baldwin Academy in middle school, Hall always knew she wanted to go to Truman.
“I didn’t want to get a degree where I was pressured to get a career in a big town somewhere else,” Hall said. “I still refer to Truman as the best decision I ever made.”