From October 12-15, 2022, Deidre Dumpson, Edelweiss Retail Client Success Manager, went on a whirlwind trip through the Midwest timed to the 2022 Heartland Fall Forum in St. Louis.
Hosted jointly by the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association and the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association, the Heartland Fall Forum brings together booksellers and others from the book industry to network and learn from one another.
Below, Deidre reflects on her time attending the conference, touring the bookstores of St. Louis and Chicago, and meeting some of the wonderful booksellers from the region.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 12
Deidre: I flew into St. Louis on Wednesday excited for my first Heartland Fall Forum! The event was held at the Hyatt Regency in St. Louis at The Arch, and I could see the Arch from my room (so large!).
There was an amazing opening reception, which was emceed by the iconic duo Isaac Fitzgerald and Saeed Perry. The reception was filled with laughter, tears, and so much anticipation for all the education, networking, and new books ahead of us!
Several awards were presented as well as acknowledgements for authors and booksellers representing both the Great Lakes Independent Bookseller Association and the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association.
For dinner, I was invited to join Bookshop.org and a group of booksellers at a lovely local southern restaurant named Juniper. Everything we ate was DELICIOUS.
That night, there also was a celebration of Heartland’s 10th anniversary held at The Novel Neighbor. There was karaoke, portrait making, book shopping, and much conversation!
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13
St. Louis Bookstore Tour
Deidre: I started my day with a walk to a local coffee shop name Kaldi where I had a marvelous oat milk cappuccino with a slice of banana bread to gear up for a day full of bookstore visits!
My first stop was Left Bank Books, and it was so, SO hard to leave.
Their curation was a dream and I found myself discovering so many titles I hadn’t been aware of previously.
The cherry on top was their used books section located downstairs! I picked up a new book, some stickers, and I had to grab a tote because “Literacy and Justice For All” is something we all can get behind.
Left Bank Books
EyeSeeMe was the next stop on my St. Louis tour! They specialize in African American Children’s Literature, but they still have a room just for adults. Again, I was impressed by the number of books I discovered, and I was so happy to find some new nonfiction to add to my library.
Then, I made my way to Subterranean Books! The store is located on a busy street that is filled with other local shops and eateries.
I felt so welcomed by the team and they even put me on to a newly issued edition of Rock My Soul by bell hooks and sent me on my way with a goodie bag filled with stickers, postcards and more.
The last stop was The Noir Bookshop! The Noir Bookshop is owned and operated by one woman and carries a small deeply intentional collection of titles along with other merch and gift items. The space immediately feels like a big hug and calls you in to rest, read, and nourish your brain. I cannot wait to visit again.
Overall, the tour reminded me yet again just how special indies are. While bookselling is at its core about selling books, many people have recognized the potential for indie bookstores to create lasting change within their communities—through offering their space and a selection of titles that reflects all that is St. Louis.
This was one of my favorite cities to visit so far, and I left incredibly inspired by the deep connections between community, art, and knowledge woven throughout the city and its local bookstores.
ON THE TRADE SHOW FLOOR
Deidre: The rest of my day was spent at Edelweiss's table on the trade show floor where I was happily stationed in between the American Booksellers Association and Arbeiter Ring Publishing.
After the trade show floor closed, there was a really fun merchandise ball where attendees got dressed up and showed off their store's best merch outfit. There were crowns, tattoos, berets, and more, and it was really cool to see the different stores represent and to (selfishly) pick up some merch for myself.
That night I was able to take some booksellers to dinner on behalf of Edelweiss and we were joined by Brain Lair Books, Rooted MKE, Lo Revo Books, and The Noir Bookshop. We had dinner at the BBQ restaurant, Salt + Smoke. There were some deep discussions about what it means to be women of color in this industry and what power we have to create change and to build community in order to ensure we survive.
The night was so filled with love, and by the end we all expressed gratitude for being brought together to have conversation, share information, and to remain connected going forward.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14
Deidre: The day began on the trade show floor where we connected with more bookstores, publishers like Andrews McMeel, organizations like BINC and Libro.fm, and more!
At the end of the day, I gave my final hugs and goodbyes—it was hard to head out, but I also left excited for next year's conference. It will be held in Detroit, which is so close to Edelweiss's home city, Ann Arbor!
I then boarded an Amtrak to head to Chicago and kick off my Windy City bookstore tour. When I arrived, I spent the evening near the Magnificent Mile at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel. For someone like me that loves thrifting, it was the perfect vintage find and such a fun stay!
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 15
Gabriella: I recently moved from Ann Arbor to Evanston, a suburb of Chicago, so I was so thrilled to get to know my new city a little better and explore its bookstores alongside Deidre!
Deidre: And Women and Children First was yet another store where we felt we could have stayed and drooled over the shelves for hours. The curation was stellar and I ended up grabbing a copy of one of my all time favorites Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldua.
We also chatted with their staff and had a really great conversation about event grids, especially ways that the system could better serve bookstores.
Deidre: We then headed over to The Book Cellar in Lincoln Square, where the staff picks seemed to be endless.
Gabriella: The only thing Deidre and I love as much as new book smell is old book smell so, after we finished up at The Book Cellar, we took the short walk over to Ravenswood Used Books. They had an awe-inspiring amount of used and vintage books.
Deidre: It almost felt like the sections were made for the two of us. Gabriella picked up an art book about Marc Chagall, and I snagged a vintage edition of The Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison.
We then grabbed lunch at a local Southern restaurant named Luella’s and it was divine!
Gabriella: Perfectly fueled for the remainder of our tour, we set off for City Lit Books!
Deidre: I had had an opportunity to connect with Stephanie during Heartland, so it was really cool to visit their store and connect with more of the booksellers that work there.
Gabriella: It was a beautiful shop with a great selection. We also couldn’t help but buy some stickers and mushroom notecards!
Next, it was off to Wicker Park's Semicolon Bookstore.
Deidre: Visiting Semicolon was an awesome experience, and that is all because of their wonderful GM Nahin who sat down and had a lovely chat with us about the store and their plans for leveraging the tools in Edelweiss.
The walls are filled with art and the entire space just pulls you in with it’s vibrancy. Of course we grabbed some merch!
Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery
Deidre: These two cities were wonderful, and we are so grateful to every store that welcomed us, talked with us, and shared their spaces with us.