Interview with a Bookstore: Octavia Books
Defying the Odds since 2000
In 2000, Tom Lowenburg and Judith Lafitte opened Octavia Books—one of only 4 or 5 independent bookstores to open across the entire country that year, according to the American Booksellers Association. At a time when the future of local bookstores seemed in peril, they wanted to prove that a good independent bookstore can still be an exciting, viable, and essential part of any community.
What's your favorite section of the store?
Tom Lowenburg and Judith Lafitte (co-owners): We really love how all the sections of our store work together, from the children’s books to cookbooks and from fiction to local interest.
If you had infinite space what would you add?
Tom and Judith: A 500-person arena (with an indoor heated pool).
What do you do better than any other bookstore?
Tom and Judith: We appreciate our customers, know our stock, and are able to match the two.
Who's your favorite regular?
Tom and Judith: We have a very well-read customer who just celebrated her 100th birthday. She regularly purchases books by the stack.
What’s the craziest situation you’ve ever had to deal with in the store?
Tom and Judith: Screaming fans when Rick Springfield made his appearance.
What’s your earliest/best memory about visiting a bookstore as a child?
Tom: I remember going to the Basement Bookshop—a shop in New Orleans where William Faulkner once hung out—to find a birthday gift for my grandmother. I was impressed by the owner, Tess Crager, knew exactly what to get for her, The Crystal Cave.
If you weren’t running or working at a bookstore, what would you be doing?
Tom: Something that brings our civic community together.
What’s been the biggest surprise about running a bookstore?
Tom and Judith: The overwhelming support our customers have showed from the very beginning till today.
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