Bryan Dupree’s precocious affection for the French language took him from his native parish of Iberville in France and back to Lafayette, where he opened the doors of his own bookstore last year.
Dupree and three business partners – her husband of two years, James Colvin; and two of his LSU Law School classmates Endya Hash and Blair Boles – opened Beausoleil Books a year ago, amid the pandemic. He said it was the first downtown bookstore since the 1970s. Later, they opened the adjacent Whisper Room, a wine, cheese and dessert bar, after COVID-19 precautions relaxed.
So far, so good.
Dupree said the four friends did not expect to turn a profit in their first year in business and, thanks to COVID-19 and its Delta variant, they “lived up to expectations,” he said. he declared laughing. But the first 12 months of business also included a heavy selling period for the holidays last year, as well as a dedicated downtown area that friends hope to grow into a booming business as a result.
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Dupree grew up outside of Plaquemine, a small town that lacked a bookstore. But he said he volunteered at his local library as a child and worked in libraries until college. He received a literature degree from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, and studied law in Lyon, France, as well as at LSU.
His French studies began as a child and, as one of the four partners, his experience allows him to guide the selection of French titles for sale in the store. In fact, the partners follow an unusual business model, each influencing the direction of book offerings in their own area of interest and expertise.
Dupree, for example, “fought for French titles” in the store, not just classic French writers but contemporary writers as well. The stock includes authors who write in French from Canada, Africa and Louisiana.
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Colvin is passionate about science fiction. Blair is a romance writer as well as a romance reader and Hash makes sure there is plenty of young adult and social interest writing. Each brings their own expertise to shape the store’s stock.
“We try to have something for everyone, despite our size,” Dupree said.
Some people see the comfortable size of the bookstore as an advantage. Large bookstores can be overwhelming for some people, and store staff are available to customers, suggesting books and guiding customers through the store.
Dupree said a surprise this year has been the strong response to children’s reading programs. Children’s books make up the largest section of the store.
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The store and Whisper Room also host poetry readings, author presentations and can branch out into music programs.
A party to celebrate the first anniversary of Beausoleil Books is scheduled for Saturday from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Whisper Room. Partygoers can dress as their favorite literary theme, character, or author. There will be a Books and Pop Culture Quiz event at 7 a.m. and after the party with a themed cocktail party and fun activities. Other events are listed on the store’s website, https://www.beausoleilbooks.com.
Beausoleil Books 302-A Jefferson St., is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Whisper room is open from 4 to 10 Tuesday to Thursday and from 4 to 11 Friday and Saturday.