Davis-Kidd said goodbye to me several years ago


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.