By Dakota Parks for Inweekly
Close your eyes for a moment and let the nostalgia of your childhood come rushing back. The school halls abuzz with excitement, the palpable anticipation of flipping through a Scholastic book catalog, eagerly circling your favorite books with wide-eyed enthusiasm, daydreaming of all the kitschy trinkets and new books you will discover. For many book lovers, these childhood book fairs cemented a lifelong love of reading—and shopping in market type settings.
Now, what if we told you there’s a chance to relive those cherished memories? Odd Colony Brewing Co. has brewed up the perfect event for reading and market enthusiasts—a grown-up book fair where you can rekindle those old school glory days by diving into curated stacks from local bookstores, sipping on craft beer and making your New Year’s reading resolutions feel like a breeze.
“Breweries are like the coffee shops of beer, so they make the perfect atmosphere for events like these,” said Beth Schweigert, the events coordinator and Odd Colony co-founder. “A lot of our staff and patrons are avid book readers, and we wanted to highlight them, support our local bookstores and engage with the community. With all the technology available today, there’s just something about that feeling of holding a real paperback book and the smell of a bookstore.”
This Sunday, Jan. 21, patrons can peruse curated collections from Open Books, The Idle Reader, Pensacola Pop Comics and Bailey’s Produce & Nursery bookstore while discovering book-inspired art, buttons, coffee mugs, vintage fashion and more—reminiscent of the little treasures found at most elementary school book fairs. Local artist Poppy Garcia will be there to help you tap into your creativity with a DIY bookmark station.
Attendees can also indulge in a trip down memory lane via their taste buds thanks to food vendors like Nomadic Eats, Sauce Boss Burger Co. and Craft Bakery. Nomadic Eats, for example, is going full “lunch lady” with a menu featuring their take on cafeteria classics like square pizza and Jell-O.
Pensacola’s longest-running independent bookstore Open Books will curate a selection of books from its vast inventory of more than 10,000 titles available in-store. As a volunteer-run organization, all of its profits go directly toward funding its Prison Book Project, which aims to improve the lives of Florida inmates, and in turn, reduce the likelihood of reincarceration.
“We think it’s important to support independent bookstores because we need to have more choices,” explained Scott Satterwhite, Open Books co-founder. “Being independent means that we are less driven by a corporate need for profit over our own desire to contribute to our community. What we do is pretty unique, and we want people to know that when they buy books from us, they are directly supporting the overall mission and helping more people than they could imagine.”
Open Books has also been on the frontlines of Escambia County’s ongoing battle with book censorship, actively giving back to the community by placing banned books into the hands of the public. Through multiple projects aimed at distributing free banned books, the bookstore remains dedicated to making these essential literary works accessible to everyone.
“Most of the books from those projects have already been given away. At the book fair, we will likely have some of the books that are being challenged, locally and nationally, but those lists are very large and probably look very similar to what we normally have on our shelves,” Satterwhite said. “We joked once that we should just put a sign up in front of our entire literature section that says, ‘banned books and future banned books,’ because so many are being challenged that at some point nearly every book will be challenged at this pace.”
The Idle Reader, Pensacola’s latest addition to the literary scene, shares the same fervor as Open Books, fueled by a passion to ignite a love for reading in the hearts of more people. Opened in fall 2023 within the cozy confines of Mrs. Jones Coffee Bar on Nine Mile Road, The Idle Reader represents the lifelong dream of owner Precious Murphy. A substantial part of the shop’s inventory is drawn from the personal home library of Precious and her husband, Michael Murphy. Specializing in “curated collections for the curious,” The Idle Reader may not have every genre on its shelves, but it boasts a thoughtful selection of both well-loved and new books.
“Our name, Idle Reader, was inspired by the first line of Don Quixote, which is a classic, satirical, funny, social commentary that perfectly captures the attitude of our shop,” Precious Murphy said. “We stock a lot of classics, science fiction and affordable children’s books, but really, we’re interested in curating collections that allow readers to follow their curiosity. We want to be a third space for people, away from their home and their office, that allows them to gather for book clubs and social events while feeling like they’re in a cozy living room.”
Murphy explained one of the hardest hurdles for independent bookstores is competing with large online sellers with low prices and speedy delivery windows. She plans to travel around the country this year with her husband, visiting other indie bookstores to gain insights into their strategies and experiences in overcoming this obstacle.
“The best way to keep small bookstores alive is to buy more books,” Murphy said. “I personally don’t judge how anyone buys their books or what they choose to read, because I just want people to read more books. However, you are helping your micro-economy and your community when you shop at indie bookstores. We have at least seven small businesses alone in our shop, selling plants, bookmarks and other goods.”
Events like this book fair also serve as a dynamic avenue for supporting this local micro-economy, as well as fostering personal growth and change through the power of reading. Whether you’re striving to meet a new Goodreads goal, eager to connect with fellow book enthusiasts or simply want to enjoy a good book with an adult beverage in hand, this family-friendly book fair offers a little of something for everyone.
“Books have become a really emotionally charged topic across the country right now, but we hope to provide the books that we think need to be in school systems and the books that belong in people’s personal libraries,” Murphy said. “The best way to make change is through individuals. Individuals change when they read, and people read when they have access to books. I think that’s important, and we’re excited to share a small piece of our collection at the book fair.”
Grown-Up Book Fair
WHAT: A market featuring local bookstores and nostalgic food, clothing and art vendors
WHEN: noon-4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 21
WHERE: Odd Colony Brewing Co., 270 N. Palafox St.
DETAILS: oddcolony.com, @oddcolonybrewing
Grown-Up Book Fair Vendor Lineup
Open Books @openbookspcola
The Idle Reader @theidlereader_bookstore
Pensacola Pop Comics @pensacolapopcomics
Bailey’s Produce & Nursery Bookstore @baileysproduce
•NOSTALGIC FOOD, TREATS & WARES
Nomadic Eats @nomadiceats
Sauce Boss Burger Co. @saucebossburger
Craft Bakery @craftbakerypensacola
Lindsey Bakes @lindseybakes_
Obsolete Heat @obsoleteheat
Nate Geo @nate.geo
Thorn + Thistle @thornandthistle.collective
Sporadic Vintage @sporadicvintage
Parcel Vintage @parcel.vintage
UWF Book Club+ more
DIY bookmarks with Poppy Garcia @thepoppygarcia