Ameema Ahmed

Lisa Lamberson calls it “a moment of temporary insanity”: deciding to join forces with her friend Annette Avery and purchase a bookstore in Flagstaff. “There was a downtown bookshop called Barefoot Cowgirl Bookstore that was put up for sale, and the community had a rallying cry to save it,” Lamberson recalls. “Annette was willing to jump in on the crazy ride with me.”

The longtime friends purchased the bookstore in 2017 and, after much debate, changed its name to Bright Side Bookshop to reflect their “glass half full” outlook on life. “It was harder than naming any of our children,” Lamberson says.

Lamberson is no stranger to the retail world: She grew up in her family’s business, Mountain Sports, a specialty outdoors store she now owns. But transitioning from outdoor gear to books was a challenge. “I thought, Great, I can sell outdoor apparel, so books will be very similar,” she says. “It could not be more different.” She recalls, for example, stepping into the shop on a snowy Wednesday morning and being terrified to realize she had no idea how to find a book if a customer were to request a specific title. “It was a steep learning curve, but it was exciting,” she says.

Over time, Lamberson (left) and Avery, along with their team of booksellers and purchasing partners, figured out how the book industry works. “We came to find out that each Tuesday, there are roughly 2,000 new books that are published,” Lamberson says. “Every week, you have to sort through those titles and decide what you’re going to bring in.” During the first six months, she says, they had an unsophisticated system of selecting titles every Tuesday. After becoming more integrated into the industry, they now work with representatives from different publishing houses and distributors to make selections in advance of releases.

While digital books and audiobooks remain popular, Lamberson says, the draw of a brick-and-mortar bookstore is still strong enough to bring people in for an experience they can’t get elsewhere. “Many people fear bookstores are going away, and they come in to openly inquire about how business is and how they can support,” she says. “There are plenty of people who still love reading a book and having that shared experience of reading to your child or passing along a book.”

Lamberson also notes the knowledge of Bright Side’s booksellers and the connection they can provide to customers. “They’re all different in their reading styles, and they love to talk about books,” she says. “It’s the personal interaction — coming in and having the dialogue and being recommended a title. Sure, you can potentially see that on Amazon with automatic recommendations, but it’s just not the same.”

Emily Edison, a regular customer at Bright Side, says visiting the bookshop is one of her family’s favorite outings because the staff at the store always makes them feel welcomed. “There is usually a face, or three, that we recognize, and we’re quickly swept up into chatting about our latest reads and asking for new recommendations,” Edison says. “Since they know our reading interests and even the interests of our daughters, we can always count on a perfect recommendation.”

Bright Side Bookshop frequently hosts author signings and events to promote local and regional authors and topics. Lamberson says the community enjoys meeting authors, and as the bookshop has grown, the staff has been able to attract touring authors. 

Bright Side has become a staple in the Flagstaff community, and Edison says the bookshop holds a special place in her family’s heart and that “Flagstaff is a better city because of it.” Sometimes, it seems, the best things can come out of those moments of “temporary insanity.”

Business Information

Bright Side Bookshop
18 N. San Francisco Street
Flagstaff, AZ
United States