Bookstores value collaboration over competition

Mars Johnson|Marlin Chronicle

The Hampton Roads Bookstore Crawl is a unique event happening in VWU’s backyard. The event is scheduled for April 19 to April 27; the week leading up to Independent Bookstore Day. 

Sixteen independent bookstores, also called “indies,” in the Hampton Roads area are participating in the second annual Bookstore Crawl. These bookstores are in a variety of locations and offer a variety of themes and unique charms. This event truly has something for everyone. 

The Bookstore Crawl functions similarly to a scavenger hunt, but instead of searching for items, book lovers are searching for a new favorite book store. Participants are given a “passport,” in which they can collect stamps from every store they visit. Crawlers are also encouraged to post pictures of their experiences on social media with the hashtag #hrvalovesindiebookstores.

The event also has incentives to visit as many participating stores as possible. After visiting six stores, crawlers can enter to win a basket full of bookish treats. If crawlers visit all participating stores, they can win three free raffle tickets. At the end of the week, crawlers can leave their “passports” with the last store they visited and then they will be entered to win a basket with goodies from each of the participating stores. 

The Hampton Roads Bookstore Crawl was started last year by Erin Dougherty, owner of Eleanor’s Norfolk, as a way to simultaneously celebrate the local independent bookstores and the community of book lovers. “I really wanted to highlight and celebrate all of the indies and let the folks in our area know about them. Each one has its own vibe and niche – they each have booksellers who want to talk about the books they love, and there’s nothing like building community through finding your bookseller twin as a book lover,” Dougherty said. 

While the Bookstore Crawl only involves small, independent bookstores in the Hampton Roads area, this year the Crawl has decided to also include bookstore pop-ups. “Some of the ‘bookstores’ included were not strictly bookshops; for example, a non-profit that provides free books, and a ‘book club’ bar,” Victoria Mitchell, from Dog Eared Books, said. 

The Hampton Roads Bookstore Crawl also strives to give back to those in need. This year, The Big Free Bookstore has been included in the event. The Big Free Bookstore is a project from REACH, a non-profit organization that promotes literacy for at-risk and homeless children in the Coastal Virginia area. 

The key to this Bookstore Crawl is the participation of independent bookstores. Dougherty calls indie bookstores “community hubs” and that is exactly what the Hampton Roads Bookstore Crawl strives to foster. 

This is the beauty of several independent bookstores coming together to put on a wonderful event for the community. While these stores could have seen each other as competition, they chose to see each other as friends and partners. 

Tera Alston, from The Printed Word Bookstore, said, “The book crawl is a wonderful way to let the community know about all the indie bookstores in our area. It’s a great way for indie bookstores to partner together as well.”

When Doughtery started this event last year, she decided she wanted to foster community cooperation and involvement. “One of the foundational values of Eleanor’s is the idea of cooperation over competition. Just because we all sell books doesn’t mean we’re not interconnected…We can celebrate one another, work together, live together,” Doughtery said. 

In a world so often fueled by the fire of competition, these community bookstores have come together to stoke the ashes of cooperation. Whether you are an obsessed bookworm or a casual reader, these bookstores have created an environment and an event that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. 

“People say reading is magic because it is – it allows you to live inside someone else’s brain and how they experience the world for a span of time. Indies are magic for the same reason – connection and community,” Doughtery said. This may be the magic of indie bookstores, but it is also the magic of the Hampton Roads Bookstore Crawl. 

More information about the Hampton Roads Bookstore Crawl can be found on the Eleanor’s Norfolk website at 

By Calee Lukowski