Shop the Blocks 2020 Spotlight: Francie & Finch Bookshop
For Leslie Huerta, owning a bookshop is a childhood dream come true.
Four years ago, she transformed the abandoned historic telegraph building at 130 S 13th Street into Francie & Finch, a cozy shop filled with shelves of books for all ages, local art, and giftable trinkets.
The dark green telegraph building known for its unique flourishes and tall windows sat empty for years, begging to be tranformed into a special place. These days, its windows are lit and the shop is a constant source of joy for Lincoln's local bookworms.
DLA: What inspired you to open a bookstore?
Leslie Huerta: This was the first painting I bought, I got it from Dean around the corner over at Metro Gallery. (She points to the piece that's hung behind the cash register.) The local artist is Robert Esquivel and it's a gorgeous, multi-media painting. Isn't it cool? Embedded in here is a fortune cookie and it says "Keep true to the dreams of your youth."
And I don't know about you, but when I was growing up, my dad was a hotelier so we moved literally every year or two to a different place. A different country, different place—and bookstores were always my favorite thing. If I ever had any free time for myself or I had to buy a present for somebody, I went to a bookstore. In my traveling days, I didn't mind layovers because there was always a bookstore. So this has been my dream, to spend my time here in this cool space.
DLA: What was it like making the bookstore dream a reality?
Huerta: We opened November 4, four years ago—2016. I can't believe it. We wanted to open November 1, we had signed the lease in August and we had all that time to get all the books and figure out what we were doing. But there was no internet in this building, since it's an old, historic building, and it was really challenging to get internet. By November 1, we still didn't have it, so I didn't know how to use the cash register or anything! So we said, okay, we'll push the opening back til Friday, November 4, but we're opening come hell or high water. And I had little paper slips, because we were going to do everything manually with a calculator.
The day before, we got internet. So we were all huddled around, trying to learn this system and everything. The 4th of November was the first Friday of the month and there were hundreds of people here. I'm not exaggerating. The Journal Star ran a big thing that same day, and the neighborhood came out. It was wonderful, it was just wonderful. We had live music, and the door was open constantly because there were so many people coming and going.
DLA: What is the day-to-day routine like at Francie & Finch?
Huerta: We sell books of all kinds. I order everyday, and everyday we have new books that come in. We're always happy to include any special requests. It's like Christmas everyday here.
We do free gift wraps, speaking of Christmas. And I have my holiday paper in.
We're also an art gallery, and it's all local and original art that's for sale on the walls. We have new artists' work coming in regularly. We typically participate in the First Friday art walk with live music and refreshments. We're looking forward to when that will get started again.
DLA: How do you decide which books to stock?
Huerta: It's an ongoing thing. I read reviews, I listen to my customers, I watch all the television reviews—everyone has book clubs, like Oprah and Reece [Witherspoon]. I try and seek out things that I personally find interesting, and what my customers might find interesting.
We do order everyday, though, so if there's something particular that somebody is looking for, we're always happy to include that special request.
DLA: What is your advice to people looking to gift a book this holiday season?
Huerta: Let us know, certainly, if there are any special interests that the person has. If they're looking for another person, I usually ask what kind of work they do. That can help me decide.
It's not just the blockbusters like the John Grisham's that are great gifts—we have a whole section over there called "F&F Imports," those are all little novels that are translated from different languages and imported from different publishers and different countries.
And certainly in the Kids' Room, there's beautiful works of art back there, and depending if the parent is an architect or an artist or a teacher, there are books that will peak their interest as well as the kids'.
Support Francie & Finch and other downtown retailers this holiday season by shopping local.
This year, Shop the Blocks may look a little different, but Downtown Lincoln's boutiques, book stores, art galleries, specialty shops & stores are still here for you. So let's show up for them! Spread out over the first three Thursdays in November, take this opportunity to get access to your VIP Passport to enjoy special discounts, giveaways, and more.