Blue Bicycle Books: Charleston’s Local Bookstore

Blue Bicycle Books: Charleston’s Local Bookstore

The front of the store (photo courtesy of Grace Samuelson)

Upper King Street is a haven for vibrant Charleston life.

Cars whiz past tourists taking pictures of every palm tree.

Booze Pops, an adult popsicle truck, sits in a vacant lot and blasts a chorus of Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake.

A lone blue bicycle with a stack of books on the back stands out for its strategic placement in front of a mostly nondescript store.

But through the door, the chaos of Upper King is suddenly transformed into a soothing escape – away from the real world and into the magical one filled with books where the fresh scent of parchment paper fills the vacant space.

Blue Bicycle Books has it all.

The curated collection ranging from rare editions of classic novels to brand new children’s books is a part of Blue Bicycle Books’ presence on King Street.

And this bookstore does a lot more for its patrons than just sell books.

“It’s sort of the whole package. We do events, we do writing camps and a lot of luncheons,” said Jonathan Sanchez, owner of the store.

YALLFest, a festival that brings in around 100 authors and thousands of people every year is Blue Bicycle Book’s biggest event.

Fans flock to Upper King Street every November to interact with their favorite authors and get their books signed.

Cassandra Clare, author of the top-selling young adult series “City of Bones,” attended this past year, drawing in fans from across the globe.

The blue bicycle out front (photo courtesy of Grace Samuelson)

YALLFest isn’t the only time fans can interact with authors. Blue Bicycle Books has author book signings and events almost every week.

“I think we’re kind of best known for connecting writers to readers in a very aesthetic way,” said Sanchez.

It’s not just about reading and selling the books; it’s about giving fans a chance to connect with their favorite authors in an organic way, outside the pages of a book. 

While YALLFest is Blue Bicycle Books’ biggest event, it isn’t Sanchez’s favorite one.

“I love our writing camps,” he says with a smile. “If someone calls me and wants to talk about their kid coming to writing camp, I could talk about it all day long. It’s a great program.”

For rising third-graders and up, Blue Bicycle Books’ writing camps are a week-long program where kids just go to write.

Love is poured into every aspect of the establishment, from the events and camps to the hard work that goes into running a local bookstore. Even through the busy schedule, Sanchez has enjoyed everything about it.

The bookstore has been open for 23 years and is the oldest store on Upper King Street.

Sanchez started working at the store back when it was called Boomer’s Books.

An advertisement for YALLFest (photo courtesy of Grace Samuelson)

“I was writing on my own – freelancing, creative writing, that sort of thing,” Sanchez reflected, noting he hopes to write more this upcoming year. “I was working in a café delivering food, so [Boomer’s] was a much better gig. Then I was here off and on for like 10 years.”

He bought the store in 2007 and renamed it Blue Bicycle Books.

Even the staff of Blue Bicycle Books has been around for a long time.

“They have a lot of passion for the store, and they do a really great job,” Sanchez pointed out. “Our newest guy is celebrating two years here soon.”

Blue Bicycle Books is a jackpot for tourists wandering the streets and a reliable go-to for shoppers needing meaningful Christmas presents.

It isn’t the type of store to go relax and read a book, but it’s the ideal place to browse the inexpensive used books and one-of-a-kind editions of classics like “The Iliad.”

Rare, used, local. Blue Bicycle Books has it all.

“It’s known as a really great place to shop and spend time,” Sanchez emphasized. “I think when you come in here, I like to think of it as a pleasure palace where people feel welcomed and excited.”

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Authored by: Grace Samuelson

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