Arts & Culture

Inside Birmingham’s Newest Independent Bookstore

Thank You Books celebrates its grand opening in Magic City

Birmingham, Alabama’s cultural renaissance has been in full swing for years, bringing with it new restaurants, breweries, shops, and other attractions as the city’s population continues to boom. The latest small business to join the roster: Thank You Books, a brand-new independent bookstore in Crestwood Village owned by trio Kristen Iskandrian, Laura Cotten, and Elizabeth Goodrich.

When Iskandrian, author of the 2017 novel Motherest, moved to Birmingham from Athens, Georgia, in 2013, she saw the literary presence the city had to offer—including great shops like Homewood’s Alabama Booksmith—but felt there was something missing. “I put out a random musing on Facebook a few years ago that I wanted to start an independent bookstore,” Iskandrian says. “At the time, Laura [who had worked in bookstores and volunteered at Birmingham’s creative writing nonprofit, DISCO] had moved to Michigan, but she messaged me and said, if you’re serious about this, I’d move back.” In the meantime, Iskandrian had crossed paths with Elizabeth Goodrich, who helps run a few local nonprofits and also had been looking into opening a bookstore.

photo: Courtesy of Create Birmingham
From left: Kristen Iskandrian, Laura Cotten, and Elizabeth Goodrich talk outside their new shop. (Courtesy of Create Birmingham)

The three began researching, planning, and visiting shops throughout the country. “We tried to absorb the best parts of all the bookstores we’ve been visiting,” Iskandrian says. “Places like Parnassus, Square Books, Octavia in New Orleans, Avid in Athens.” They landed on a community-centered concept focusing on literary fiction and poetry, but with a little bit of everything on their shelves. “We’re here for every type of reader—yes, avid readers, but we also have the skills and background to help people who don’t read much find what they’ll love.”

Although open for a few weeks now, Thank You Books will celebrate its official grand opening on Saturday with all things local: music by Birmingham hip hop artist Suaze, treats from Beehive Baking Company, a champagne toast, and a neighborhood reading—a way for the team to greet and say thank you to its new home.

“The name Thank You Books works on a cute level, but also on a cosmic level,” Iskandrian says. “Gratitude is at the core of what we do: we’re grateful for books that we can sell and stand by and promote. And it’s also important to thank our city. We acknowledge that a lot is changing here, and we want to be a part of that.”