Coming soon to downtown Abilene, Seven and One Books will offer more than page-turners in all genres.
The store’s marketing tagline is “a book sanctuary,” said owner Arlene Kasselman, “because the desire is to make it a destination where people can come and sit and sort of find a peaceful spot.”
That sanctuary is opening later in the summer in the former Roberts Studio location at 1138 N. Second St. That’s a block west of Grain Theory brewery, where Kasselman’s husband, David, is one of the owners.
It will also be located between Texas Star Trading Co., which specializes in Texas-themed and authored books, and the downtown branch of the Abilene Public Library. All three touch North Second Street.
And, yes, the photography studio’s iconic outdoor signage in green, scripted lettering will remain, she said.
“A big question for Abilene is what we are doing with the sign, and the sign is staying there,” Kasselman said. “Just so everybody knows.”
Adding up the name
In the 2,000-square-foot space, Kasselman plans Seven and One to be a personable place that draws people for its contents and atmosphere.
The store’s character starts with its name. The two digits reflect the Enneagram numbers for Kasselman and her son, Spencer, who is helping in the venture. Enneagram is a personality typing system that assigns numbers one through nine to core human impulses.
“The seven is the one who is spontaneous, and just up for adventure, which is me,” Kasselman said. “And the one is sort of more research-based and grounded, and that’s my son.”
With those foundational meanings, mother and son found the name for their new business.
“And, we just liked the way the numbers sounded together,” said Kasselman, who works at Abilene Christian University.
Inspiration for starting an independent bookstore came during Spencer’s internship last summer in New York City.
“There was a bookstore called McNally Jackson that he would go to, like four times a week at the end of the day, to process,” Kasselman said.
During a visit to see her son, Kasselman appreciated the bookstore’s environment and and voiced an aspiration to be a bookseller too.
He said, ‘Well, you’ve said this so much. Why don’t you do it?’ And I’m like, because I don’t know what I’m doing. And he said, ‘Learn. Come on.’ That was my motivation, “Kasselman said.
She researched independent bookstores, talked with owners in other cities and Seven and One was born. Also helping with the store launch is Kester Smith, who worked for BookPeople in Austin.
“Book People is one of the largest bookstores I’ve been to. It’s amazing,” Kasselman said.
While the new space undergoes renovations, she has since Thanksgiving been conducting online sales through Facebook and Instagram and hosting pop-up sales during ArtWalk, the Children’s Art & Literacy Festival and other events.
A place to gather
Independent bookstores are making a comeback, Kasselman said, after decades of being crowded out of the market by Barnes and Noble, Books a Million and other big-box retailers, then Amazon online sales.
However, “during the pandemic, independent local bookstores really started growing again,” Kasselman said.
She attributes the turnaround in part to a renewed consumer focus on buying local.
And, finding a book in a unique bricks-and-mortar location is a rewarding experience not possible with a few clicks via a website transaction, Kasselman said.
“I think it’s a good alternative between the big box store and buying online. It keeps resources in Abilene,” she said.
To make Seven and One Books a destination, Kasselman is focused just as much on the atmosphere as the books. There will be a homey vibe with the mixing of mid-century modern and boho (drawing on bohemian and hippie influences) furnishings and décor.
“We’re going for warm and comfortable,” Kasselman said.
Accentuating that coziness will be a spot for a cup of tea.
“But we’re not going to be like a coffee shop,” Kasselman said. “We are going to have tea cups, tea bags and kettles and people will be welcome to put the kettle on and make themselves a cup of tea.
“So it’s almost going to have like a living room feel.”
Expanding the options
Kasselman’s love of books started in childhood.
“I love nonfiction, and always have. And when it comes to fiction, I love mysteries and sort of the almost sort of old-school detective. I was raised on Nancy Drew, and I’m not sure I’ve ever outgrown it. , “she said. “But I do love nonfiction. And I love biographies.”
Her favorite authors include Madeline L’Engle, Flannery O’Connor and Mary Oliver.
She plans to offer books in all genres, including fantasy, which is her least favorite, an opinion that “is so unpopular, because so many books are in there,” she said, laughing.
“I’m not a ‘Lord of the Rings’ lover, and people just like look at me and they’re horrified.”
But part of her goal is to offer books that have wide appeal beyond her personal tastes.
She is, however, mindful that the nearby Texas Star’s specialty.
“My focus is not going to be Abilene authors or Texas authors, because they do a phenomenal job of that. So we’re going to concentrate on other genres,” Kasselman said.
She will also avoid carrying in the children’s section works by authors featured at the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature bookstore around the corner.
“I’m very aware that the NCCIL bookstore funds a lot of their work, and we’re huge supporters of the NCCIL. So I’m gonna keep children’s books that are different from what they keep,” Kasselman said.
What customers can expect, though, is a diversity of reflective books of all segments of the community.
“One of my big pushes is I wanted a place where people could walk in and find a book cover that looks like then, that was representative of them,” Kasselman said.
“So I want an Asian child to be able to see a children’s book that looks like them. And I want a Black woman to be able to come in and pick up a book written by another Black woman.”
Such diversity adds to the store’s charm and appeal.
“Representation really matters to me, and inclusion – all of those things. That’s been one of my goals is that people can come in and feel included and represented,” Kasselman said.
Laura Gutschke is a general assignment reporter and food columnist and manages online content for the Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.