Interview with a Bookstore: Tubby & Coo’s Mid-City Book Shop
New Orleans' Nerd Mecca Has a Family History
All photos by Sean Spansel.
Self-proclaimed nerd Candice Huber opened Tubby & Coo’s on September 1, 2014. It is the only genre focused bookstore in the city of New Orleans and surrounding areas, focusing on science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. Candice, who began reading at age two, had dreamed of owning a bookstore since she was very young. A sixth generation New Orleanian, she always said that if she did open a bookstore, it would be in her grandparents’ neighborhood and named for them. Tubby and Coo were those grandparents, and now the store stands just two blocks from the houses they grew up in across the street from each other, serving as a family oriented and kid friendly community center for nerds, geeks, freaks, and the like!
What's your favorite section of the store?
Candice Huber (owner): That’s a really tough question, but I think I’d have to go with the children’s section. Our children’s book room is painted to look like a kid’s room and to make you feel like a toy! We also have a table for drawing, and we love to hear the children’s laughter and awe when they first see it!
If you had infinite space what would you add?
Candice: Ah, the dream! We would definitely expand to have an entire kids’ store. We’d also add a lot more board games and maybe even a craft beer bar. We’d love to have a giant room with a medieval theme and a large table for gaming!
What do you do better than any other bookstore?
Candice: We go all in on our niche, and we cater to nerds better than anyone! We are the “nerd mecca” of New Orleans. Plus, we’re more than just a bookstore—we’re also one of the best local gaming stores. And I think we do themed and creative events better than anyone, including events like “Dungeons & Dating”—nerdy speed dating—and a retro geek night, where we have a cereal bar and watch 80s cartoons and movies.
Who's your favorite regular?
Candice: Oh man, that one is really tough, because we have a lot of regulars that we absolutely love. I don’t think I could pick a favorite, although I will give a shout out to a guy name John who absolutely spends the most money in the store.
What’s the craziest situation you’ve ever had to deal with in the store?
Candice: Believe it or not, we have crazy situations regularly! I do have a favorite story to tell, though. One day, a woman walked into the store and looked around as though she was lost. I asked if she needed help, and she asked what kind of store this was. I told her this was a bookstore, and she looked absolutely amazed. She pointed to books on the shelf and asked, “So these…are books?” I answered yes, and I was completely confused and dumbfounded. I kept an eye on the woman as she wandered deeper into the store, looking around bewildered. She stopped as she approached the counter toward the back of the store and pointed to our sign that reads “More Books This Way” with an arrow pointing upstairs. She said, “MORE BOOKS?!” and I answered, “Yes, we have children’s books and board games upstairs.” She looked at me for a second, then yelled, “I CAN’T HANDLE IT!” and ran out of the front door. For a second, I sat there, shocked, and then I just burst out laughing. We have a joke among employees that she may have been an alien seeing books for the first time!
What’s your earliest/best memory about visiting a bookstore as a child?
Candice: We didn’t have a lot of money when I was a kid, so I mostly hung out in the library. Every so often, my mom would take me to a used bookstore, and that was always a big treat. I would search for coins and save them up for weeks so that I could buy books for a quarter. I would come home with a stack of books and be happy for a while! At the time, my favorite were Mary Higgins Clark mysteries.
If you weren’t running or working at a bookstore, what would you be doing?
Candice: Just prior to opening the store, I worked in Healthcare IT (Information Technology), so if I wouldn’t have opened the store, I would still be doing that. I loved working with health care professionals to install electronic medical records systems, and the team I worked with at the local hospital was absolutely fabulous. But I have to say, I don’t miss the corporate world.
What’s been the biggest surprise about running a bookstore?
Candice: Before I opened the store, I had zero experience in the book industry or in retail, so I had to do tons of research and learn a lot of things on my own. I’m still learning something new every single day. I think the biggest surprise for me was that I could actually do it! And the level of support I received from the neighborhood and customers almost immediately. I knew bookstores weren’t dying like everyone thought, but I also didn’t expect so many people to be excited about a new bookstore. We’re the first bookstore to open in New Orleans in 15 years, and there wasn’t a bookstore in this neighborhood, so the people were ecstatic!
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