At this point, Talking Animals recently exceeded their Kickstarter fundraising goal of $50,000, setting the stage for her next goal: acquiring the space and beginning renovations.
The name, Talking Animals, was inspired by "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe," but Lemieux appreciates that subcategory of characters in many works of children’s literature.
The Fort Worth native, who graduated as an English major, has a deep passion for words. Her interest in writing and the arts began 10 years ago as she covered theater and the performing arts for a local arts website, the Dallas Observer and D Magazine. Lemieux also went on to be published in The New York Times, Texas Monthly and American Theatre. She then worked full-time for the Dallas Opera as a grant writer, but in 2017, Lemieux shifted her attention to selling her family’s business. All of these experiences helped prepare her for her new venture.
Having long appreciated literature and the arts, Lemieux visited New York in July 2022 and was determined to hit every small bookstore she could find. “It felt like the bookstores oriented me,” she said, adding that she learned about that community and neighborhood by walking in and scanning the shelves. After this trip, the idea of Talking Animals came to her.
Later that summer, while her husband and children traveled, she experienced a “creative retreat.” She dreamed of bringing a local bookstore to Grapevine, Texas, a charming, historical city in the Metroplex, but one that, in her view, lacked robust performing art- and culture. Like the stores in New York, this place would orient its visitors. Longing to create a “safe, happy place” as a local “destination,” she dreamt it would be “a neutral place where everyone feels welcome.” Hopefully, she added, it will be a place that reflects the diverse community they live in – one where 58 languages are spoken.
When asked about challenges she has or will face, Lemieux replied she fears competing with Amazon, but “there will always be people who want an encounter with actual books.” She shared that Talking Animals will not necessarily be competing in terms of the speed of other booksellers. Lemieux added, “Authentic experiences with people are critical to me.” She wants her store to reflect that, and she envisions Talking Animals offering arts-related programming in addition to selling books and gifts. Shakespeare in the Bar, a local performance group, will partner with Talking Animals as an indoor venue; these live performances have been a Dallas favorite since they began in 2015. The bookstore will also host poetry slams, open mic nights, readings of plays and other events. Lemieux hopes this will truly become a “destination in the community” and “a dynamic, comfortable place for people to come to explore.”
As she began to plan for her storefront, Lemieux spent time chatting with Will Evans at Deep Vellum Books on Commerce Street in the Deep Ellum area of Dallas. Evans is a publisher, founder and owner of Deep Vellum Books, a bookstore and “cultural community center with literature at the heart of its programming.” Evans was very generous with his time and gave Lemieux this practical advice: “don’t order too many books. Get a few, see if they sell and order more. Put together a collection based on who is coming in and what they are looking for.”
Although some have warned Lemieux that owning her own bookstore is a huge amount of work, she feels that having been involved in her family’s business growing up has prepared her for this next step. Through her parents’ experience, she has a glimpse of what dedication it will require, so the task is not so intimidating.
Lemieux is hopeful to open in February 2023. She has her eye on a few spaces with coffee shops nearby.
Talking Animals was among more than two dozen businesses that participated in UD’s Alumni Business Festival at Alumni & Family Weekend 2022. Check out what other businesses sold goods and services at the Alumni Business Festival here, and sign up for the Alumni Business Directory here.