Davis-Kidd said goodbye to me several years ago

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I could go on-and-on about missing Davis-Kidd, the once-wonderful and once-independent bookstore in Nashville, whose bankrupt corporate owners yesterday announced was closing. (Karen Davis and Thelma Kidd sold it 13 years ago.) The commenters on this post at NashvilleScene.com are dismayed by the news. And the Nashville Post is collecting lots of such lamentations today.

However, the David-Kidd I miss is not the one that’s closing. The one I miss closed several years ago. It was down the street in a shopping center called Grace’s Plaza.

That Davis-Kidd was expansive (and a wee-bit expensive, perhaps), yet, at the same time, it was remarkably intimate (and worth paying a little extra). Maybe it was the natural light streaming from the skylights on the second floor, or flooding in from the front that gave it an airy feeling, even when you were buried deep among the stacks. I only recall that, no matter how much space the owners kept adding at that location, I never lost the emotional connection I had with the store.

Or maybe it was how, no matter what time of day or night you visited the store, there was something going on there, or you saw someone you knew, or there was someone performing or reading. It was a unique hang-out spot, sort of like an Apple Store for grown-ups who listen to NPR.

And then some corporate geek, probably in order to save a few cents per square foot in rent, decided to move the store back to Green Hills Mall, the place where the store first opened 30 years ago in a too-small (but back then, it seemed big) location before they grew too big and moved to the Grace’s Plaza store. It sounded like a good idea to someone, I guess, saving those few cents per square foot, and having a location at Green Hills Mall next to a Cheesecake Factory. But, oh, the reality.

I never actually believed in the Chinese notion of feng shui until I first walked into the current location of Davis-Kidd. But entering that space was the equivalent of being forced to stand next to a chalkboard being scratched by someone with really long and hard fingernails. Perhaps it’s the way in which the designers (surely this was a committee effort) tried to use every font imaginable in creating the remarkably ugly logos that identify different parts of the store. The result is a hodge-podge of signage that seems created by someone who just discovered “Desktop Publishing.”

More insanely, the natural lighting of the previous location was traded in for something akin to an ambiance I can only call “late cave period.” Again, in what was likely a committee decision when, at some point in the pre-opening days of the store, they realized their space was little more than a gigantic windowless cave, it was decided to hang a fireplace in the store; that’s what I said, hang a fireplace. Rather than add warmth to the cave, the hanging fireplace revealed to me something I had never realized: if placed in a ridiculous location, a fireplace can actually make someone feel cold.

So, yes, I understand the sad feeling people are expressing today at the loss of Davis-Kidd.

I’ve gone through it before.

  • I have read your blog for years, and I don’t think I have read anything i agree with more than this entry. The new Davis-Kidd is horrible. I don’t know what they were thinking. Everyone knows that Davis-Kidd was never the cheapest place to shop, but it didn’t matter. You WANTED to go there despite better deals online because it was an enjoyable experience. Heck, I remember studying for the TN Bar Exam in the chairs upstairs near the magazines and at Bronte because it felt like home. The old staircase was grand, where people would frequently hang out and chit chat. The new one seems like an afterthought and just a way to get from point a to b…quickly. The new children’s room is like a place you would send an insolent kid to for punishment. Where is the fun and sense of enchantment? Oh, and Bronte? *Seinfeld voice* Could it BE any less inviting? Between the changed menu, different staff, and lackluster atmosphere, it went from a Friday night fallback to a “we’re here, we’re hungry and don’t want want to hassle with driving somewhere else and waiting for a table.” Hopefully something worthwhile takes its place.

  • Re: “The old staircase was grand, where people would frequently hang out and chit chat”You’ve nailed it Scott. I was trying to think of what it was that tied that space together so well and I think it was that staircase, now that you mention it. It was grand — a statement that said “this is an important place.” But at the same time, it said, “stop here and visit.” I can remember my children sitting on those steps listening to some great authors read their books.

  • Exactly.

  • Brentbaldwin

    Well said. Never had the right feeling to me, either. And the food odor that would greet you as you descended into the basement just added to the confined feeling.