A sign at the door of The Wild Fig Bookstore announces "Friends gather here," the first clue that people are about to enter a nostalgic comfort zone where pages are turned and not swiped.
Award-winning author Crystal Wilkinson and her partner, visual artist and poet Ron Davis, the store's owners, want you to stay a while just as they have.
This weekend they are celebrating the first anniversary of their store in defiance of the digital age and predictions of the end of the paper book market.
"As quiet as it is kept, people do still pick up books," Wilkinson said.
Never miss a local story.
Last spring, the couple bought Morgan Adams Books in the Meadowthorpe Shopping Center when owner Mary Morgan decided to close it and focus on her other store, Sqecial Media.
Davis had worked part-time at the store, supplementing the income he earned with his art.
"I was going to be out of a job when they closed," he said. "I was going to work at McDonald's. And then she said, 'Do you want to buy it?'"
Wilkinson and Davis kicked the idea around, wondering if they could pull it off even if they could afford it. Then, when they decided to take the leap of faith, there were questions about relocating the inventory of 12,000 books if the landlord declined to rent the business to newcomers.
The store's name, Wild Fig, is an homage to Gayl Jones, a reclusive Lexington author who used the term frequently in her writings. Both Wilkinson and Davis are fans.
In their new bookstore, Ethiopian, Peruvian and Guatemalan coffees are available weekdays when the store opens at 8 a.m.
"That is part of our dream," said Wilkinson, who teaches English and creative writing at Morehead State University and is a founding member of Affrilachian Poets. "We have regulars who come in for coffee. We are hoping to take half of the store for a coffee house. We just don't have the capital right now."
Also, there have been periodic readings from authors such as Tananarive Due and Neela Vaswani, who use a podium that once was a church pew. And every third Sunday, the store hosts open mic, at which members of the public are welcome to read their works or the works of others. Sometimes there are featured speakers.
And the most recent tweak was the addition of writing workshops. Poet and translator Rebecca Gayle Howell recently conducted one on poetry and Wilkinson plans to hold one in the fall for fiction writing.
"We knew we had to do something to set us apart," said Davis, who manages the store. And that something is addressing the needs of humans and not digital machines.
The store features books on nearly every topic. The owners have carried on the trade program used at Morgan Adams, which allows customers to sell or trade books for store credits.
While most of the books are used, there are brand-new ones as well. The store now has about 18,000 books with only a few duplicates.
Wilkinson prefers literary fiction and writers including Toni Morrison and Michael Ondaatje, a Sri-Lankan-born Canadian novelist. Davis, however, prefers the surreal, science fiction and fantasy.
"I'm an artist type," he said. "I like anything that looks pretty. I judge a book by its cover."
The owners' love of reading creates the ambiance that they hope will pull in other book lovers who still flip pages.
"The biggest joy of reading a book is getting down to the last 10 or 15 pages," Davis said. "There is the anticipation that something is getting ready to happen. Dinosaurs had better fight dragons or something."
During the anniversary celebration there will be some merchandise discounts and free refreshments.