For students on the University of Evansville campus, sitting in the Honey+Moon café with a coffee– iced or hot– is the best way to study. But what many students, and citizens of Evansville as a whole, may be unaware of is what resides beneath that cozy little coffee shop.
To the left of the café sits a salon, named the Juniper Jade Boutique Salon. To the left of the salon, however, pushed back to the middle of the wall is a small brick doorway. An azure blue door is shaded by a black metal awning. The sign above the awning declares “Bluestocking Social” in swirled letters that match the door in color. A small illustration under the letters depicts a hand holding an open book.
Opening the door sets off the twinkling of a bell and reveals a wooden staircase leading down to the depths under the buildings above. Sprinkled across the walls are decorative art pieces, and potted plants adorn the windowsill to the left. Faux vines twist around the railing, and a secretive air fills the stairwell. The sounds of various types of music can be heard from below, and possibly even a faint bark from unseen canine.
Through the open doorway at the bottom of the steps is Bluestocking Social, a homey little bookshop. Annie Fitzpatrick, one of the store’s owners, is most often seen behind the counter and will welcome her guests with a friendly smile and “hello”. Wooden shelves line the walls, two small sitting areas are adorned with comfy chairs, colorful rugs, and wooden tables that hold a myriad of interesting items. In the far-right corner, a wall of art supplies is fully stocked with sharpies, sketchbooks, paintbrushes, acrylic paints, pencils, and so many more items.
The selection of young adult novels, children’s books, and merchandise line the shelves along the walls and the tables in the center of the room. Huxley, a sweet pug, or Eleanor, a gorgeous border collie, are often seen greeting customers as they browse the shelves. On Saturdays (or, as the owners call them, “Caturdays”), a curious feline named Tammy may be roaming the store instead.
The name “Bluestocking Social” was inspired by a social group in England during the Victorian era. It was composed of women with heavy interests in literacy who held informal meetings about literature and arts, much like modern-day book clubs. The name is derived from the blue stockings worn as more “casual” clothing in comparison to formal silk stockings. The term “bluestocking” refers to an intellectual woman but was often used in a derogatory manner.
Annie and her husband, Matt Fitzpatrick, have given the term a new connotation with their bookstore. “We were just researching names and then stumbled upon that and thought, ‘that’s perfect,’” she said.
Annie and Matt began their journey in February of 2020 with their marriage. Upon returning from their honeymoon, they had two weeks before the effects of the pandemic hit the country. She recounts working from home and how the experience made her rethink her feelings about her then-job with the Evansville Living Magazine.
She spoke with her husband and, together, they started planning to combine their dreams into one project. “For me, it was always a bookstore,” she said. “For Matt, it was always an art supply store.” Matt is currently a visual art teacher at Castle High School in Newburgh.
Their first idea was a pop-up store, and they even considered creating a mobile bookstore in a van and holding events on weekends. Ultimately, they settled on a stationary store.
The current location of their shop became available for purchase around June 2020. Annie had attended UE and had met Matt in the neighborhood where the shop currently resides. It was somewhere they were familiar with, somewhere that a local business could blend into a tight-knit community.
Everything seemed to line up perfectly for them: the timing, the location’s availability, their possession of the proper funds. There was nothing stopping them from creating this new business.
“This was always a dream I’d had,” Annie said, “but it wasn’t even a dream that I felt like I allowed myself to say out loud.”
Hayden Chrapek, a UE student who has visited Bluestocking, said they learned about it from a friend. “I like that it is small, so it is less overwhelming,” they said. “I definitely recommend it to friends whenever I have the chance.”
Bluestocking has a number of events that may be interesting to college students. For those over the age of 21, they have a book club called “Books and Beers” that meets every month at local bars for book discussion and drinks. There is also an event they call the “Grown Up Book Fair”. Annie says they are hoping to bring this event back in the future.
For students of all ages, they also host meetings and signings with local creative figures who range in their mediums. Previously, Bluestocking has hosted authors C.P. Miller, Mary Lou Kapfhammer, Robert R. Railey, and Todd Schimmell, as well as artists Kyle Darnell, Lydia Fulp, Leigh Ann DeVoy, and even Annie herself.
The pair would love to begin hosting more art classes and lessons, taught by Matt. Matt has done virtual “art talks” in the past, but they would love to bring in more people for in-person lessons as the conditions of the pandemic improve. In addition to this, Annie would love for big-name authors to make an appearance alongside the local creators.
“We really want this to be a space for readers, for writers, for artists, and for people that just love all of those things,” she said.