Local shop delights customers


Kat Sarafianos

Down the corner of East Broadway and 9th St. and across the way from Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream there is a small, turquoise-painted book shop with constantly changing whimsical window displays.
Walk in and hear National Public Radio softly playing in the background, see entranced customers browsing the high shelves and find co-owner Joe Chevalier sitting by the register with a book in his lap, ready to leap into action and help as soon as he’s asked.
This is Yellow Dog Bookshop.
Chevalier and his wife, co-owner Kelsey Hammond, bought the bookshop in the summer of 2013 after the previous owners of Get Lost! Book Store were closing.
“We walked in one day near the end of June to do some shopping, only to be told we’d better use up our store credit fast because the shop would be closing at the end of July unless the owner found the right buyer,” Chevalier said. “Kelsey and I looked at each other with the same thought, ‘Maybe we’re the right buyers.’ We set up a meeting with the owner, had a long discussion about what buying the shop would mean for us and for our family and jumped in. Just a month later we had financing, we had all our licenses, and we had a bookshop.”
The building itself is one of the oldest in downtown Columbia with 145 years to its name. Chevalier loves the space as it is in the heart of downtown but with more and more books being brought in, the space gets smaller and smaller. Sophomore Piper Page is familiar with the bookshop’s setup and loves the quiet environment it offers.
“What I like most about Yellow Dog bookshop is that it tends to not be very cluttered with people. Cluttered with books, yes, but there’s never a ton of people,” Page said. “You’d think, ‘Oh what a cute little vintage shop I want to take Polaroids in,’ and a lot of people do, but the genuine-ness of the shop still stays no matter how many times girls on Instagram use it as a prop.”
Page’s summary of the shop would make Chevalier proud. He and Hammond are careful in their book selection in order to draw people from all over Columbia and Missouri. From installing the Kids’ Nook so families could enjoy a day together to their creative art centered window displays designed to showcase books of a monthly theme.
“I hope people leave the shop feeling like they’ve just been in a really cool place — not trendy or fashionable, but someplace unique and useful,” Chevalier said. “I want them to say, ‘That was a good bookstore.’ We’re small but choose our stock very carefully for that reason; my favorite compliment is to hear that we have a great selection, that everything in the shop is good.”
It’s Yellow Dog’s unique and all inclusive atmosphere that makes it one of the cultural centers of downtown Columbia. Students like junior Dalton Nunamaker see the value of Yellow Dog Bookshop as a local business that plays a crucial role in the culture of the Columbia community.
“Yellow Dog Book Shop is a favorite and provides an excellent place for connections within our community. We simply have to keep financially and emotionally supporting these businesses,” Nunamaker said. “Whenever given the option we need to buy local and participate in city campaigns to aid these businesses. As members of this community, it is important to support our fellow Columbians in their aspirations and boost the local economy at the same time. Keeping money local is crucial to create jobs, stimulate growth and provide opportunities for everyone.”
Chevalier hopes their variety of books with characters and authors from different backgrounds adds to their ability to create an open exchange of ideas. The store strives to stock books by authors from many different countries and ethnic groups.
“At Yellow Dog you can find a book by Ernest Hemingway about hunting in Africa and a book by Chinua Achebe about the destruction of African culture by European missionaries,” Chevalier said. “You can find novels by Ayn Rand and Upton Sinclair in the same bookcase. We have F. Scott Fitzgerald writing about wealthy urban Americans and Willa Cather writing about poor rural Americans. We aspire to be a meeting place for people from different backgrounds as well, and we see a little of everything in the shop. Bookstores can truly be centers of a community; we’re physically located in the center of Columbia, so we might as well be a cultural center as well.”

Video by Madison Wright