Bryan Dupree’s early affection for the French language took him from his native Iberville Parish to France and back to Lafayette, where last year he opened the doors of his own bookstore.
Dupree and three business partners — his 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, in the midst of the pandemic. He said its 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 see a profit during their first year in business and, thanks to COVID-19 and its Delta variant, they’ve “met expectations,” he said with a laugh. But the first 12 months in business has also included a brisk holiday sales period last year, as well as a devoted downtown following that the friends hope to build into a burgeoning business.
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Dupree grew up outside Plaquemine, a small city that lacked a bookstore. But he said he volunteered at his local library as a boy and worked in libraries through college. He earned a literature degree at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, and studied law in Lyons, France as well as LSU.
His French studies began when he was a child and, as one of four business partners, his background allows him to guide the selection of French titles for sale in the store. In fact, the partners follow an unusual business model, with each holding influence in guiding book offerings from their own area of interest and expertise.
Dupree, for example, “fought for French titles” in the store, not just classic French authors but contemporary ones, as well. The stock includes authors who write in French from Canada, Africa and Louisiana.
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Colvin is a science-fiction aficionado. Blair is a romance author as well as a romance reader and Hash makes sure there are plenty of young adults and social interest texts. Each weighs in with 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 bookstore’s cozy size as a benefit. Large bookstores can be overwhelming to some people, and the store staff is accessible to customers, suggesting books and guiding customers through the store.
Dupree said a surprise this year has been the robust response to children’s reading programs. Children’s books comprise the largest section of the store.
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The store and the Whisper Room also host poetry readings, author presentations and may branch out into music programs.
A party to celebrate Beausoleil Books’ one-year is set for 7-11 p.m. Saturday at the Whisper Room. Party goers can dress as their favorite literary theme, character or author. There will be a books and pop culture trivia event at 7 and after party with themed cocktail and fun activities. Other events are listed on the store's website, https://www.beausoleilbooks.com.
Beausoleil Books 302-A Jefferson St., is open from 11-6, Tuesday-Saturday and 11-5 Sundays. The Whisper Room is open 4-10, Tuesday through Thursday, and 4-11, Friday and Saturday.