Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer
The building at 60 East Main Street in Franklin has housed hardware and general stores during its more than century-long history. But since the 1980s it has been home to a bookseller, most recently Suzanne Harouff, owner of Books Unlimited since the 1990s.
When Harouff decided she would retire, discussions took place with another newer bookseller in the area, Liz DeWandeler, who bought Millie’s on Georgia Road in 2019. DeWandeler, a career vet who moved to the Franklin area of Colorado five years ago, explained that she had always been a bookworm and decided that owning a bookstore was her new career. She had changed the
Millie’s name at A Novel Escape and sold new and used books.
“I didn’t want to be a vet anymore,” she said, “so it was a natural fit for me. When Suzanne and I started talking, the most important thing for us was that Main Street not lose of bookstore.
In recent decades nationally, independent booksellers have increasingly been lost to national chains and online sales.
“I spoke with my husband about it and felt like it was a dream come true,” said DeWandeler, who purchased all of Books Unlimited’s inventory. She closed the store for two months, rolled up the carpet to reveal the original wood floors, removed the drop ceiling to expose the original ceiling, and opened up and redecorated the spaces. Friend and carpenter Bob Nichols used existing lumber to build a large U-shaped checkout counter space, and the combined vast inventory of books is housed on wall shelves and bookcases throughout.
“I had a fantastic entrepreneur, Hand Built Dreams [in Franklin], who took my vision for the store and accomplished the renovation,” DeWandeler said, “and then there were a lot of volunteers who helped out. A good friend, who also does interior design, Logan Kimsey, helped me flesh out the vision and create a wonderful space and atmosphere.
DeWandeler shared that the 5th generation building was built in the 19th century.
retains its historic appeal, but she wanted her interior to also convey a somewhat modernized yet inviting vibe. On offer are lounge areas with antiques and repurposed furniture, a Keurig coffee maker with a donation jar, and merchandise bearing the name of the store she took over from its Georgia Road location, A Novel Escape, which was closed for so she can concentrate on the Main Street Store.
“I’m especially proud of how the kids’ space has turned out,” she said. “Children have plenty of space in an area with plenty of natural light. I plan to have story times and other activities for them.
The new/old store offers a selection of approximately 60% used books and 40% new books. Additionally, cards, puzzles, calendars, greeting cards, postcards and more are available. DeWandeler, who reads all genres but is particularly fond of apocalyptic and dystopian novels and all things escapist, stressed that she would order from other booksellers nationwide if necessary.
“I’m a big proponent of buying small individual businesses instead of big online businesses,” she said. “And this store still serves Suzanne’s long-time customer base (Books Unlimited) as well as new customers, locals, seasonals and tourists.”
She admitted she was having “a lot” of fun and will soon reveal a “secret” announcement surrounding a grand opening event. She wants to maintain A Novel Escape as a quality bookstore, but still plans to add interesting articles “here and there” as well as supporting local authors and local interests.
While a staple of Harouff’s Books Unlimited was, for many years, a cat or two, A Novel Escape’s mascot is “Brody”, a golden retriever.
“I find that people, especially kids, come just to see Brody,” DeWandeler joked. “But it’s okay. He likes belly massages.
From August 2, it’s the launch of the store’s book club. Anyone interested can read the August selection of “The Architect of Paris” and participate in the discussion of the book club. On alternating months, readers will share through a roundtable format their thoughts on what they are currently reading. Book club meetings will be held the first Tuesday of each month at A Novel Escape at 6:30 p.m.
To keep up to date with upcoming events, activities, and offers, anyone can sign up for the A Novel Escape e-newsletter on the store’s website.