Morris Book Shop reopens 3 decades later with old-time feel

A small wooden stool sits behind the counter of the newly opened The Morris Book Shop on Southland Drive.

It’s s been over thirty years since a Morris Book Shop has been open in Lexington and little remains of the old bookstore once located downtown. But the small wooden stool, a remainder of what once was, is a remnant of the shop that Wyn Morris and Hap Houlihan named their small store after.

Morris, who bears no relation to original bookshop, said the person who purchased the stool at the closing of the original shop, gave it to him as a gift when he and Houlihan opened their store.

“While the store is thirty years gone, there’s still so much goodwill that the old bookshop left behind,”  Morris said.

Located at the corner of Southland Drive and Southview Drive, The Morris Book Shop is much smaller than it’s larger competitors. With some 17,000 square feet and 20,000 books, the shop offers many popular titles ranging from every genre. And with Houlihan and Morris’ book background, their knowledge will help lead customers to finding the perfect book.

“We’ve got room for more books, but what’s the point?” Morris asked. Patrons have asked if the two plan on expanding, but both Morris and Houlihan agree that if the shop were any larger, it would spoil the feel.

“I can find books and we can holler at one another across the shop,” Houlihan replied.

Houlihan and Morris are long time friends and have worked together since their days as DJs at what was then the newly established WRFL. The pair have worked together at Joseph-Beth Booksellers and at University Press before Morris began to seriously consider opening a bookstore of his own.

“It was something that I either needed to stop talking about and move on, or actually go ahead and do it,” Houlihan said.

After the loss of parents for both of them, Houlihan and Morris dealt with what Morris called an experience in which their “mortality became quite visible.” It was then Morris realized opening a bookstore was what he wanted to do.

“We both fell into (starting the book shop) and it, in turn, became something much more than that,” Houlihan said.

The official grand opening of the store was Saturday. Rob Schneider of the Apples in Stereo performed, along with other local acts. Author Jeffery Scott Holland of Weird Kentucky signed copies of his travel guide and a local bakery provided treats for the guests.

Houlihan said he realizes there are at least two other large bookstores in Lexington, but believes the location and size of The Morris Book Shop will draw in all consumers from the area.

“Besides the strip of stores by campus, there really isn’t a place that people walk by in Lexington,” Houlihan said of the Southland shopping district. Houlihan and Morris agree that the community feeling of the Southland district and age range of the shoppers will be a benefit to the bookshop.

“Southland is the only place like this in Lexington,” Houlihan said.

In continuing with the old Morris Book Shop, Houlihan and Morris hope to offer a personal connection to their customers with the smaller shop.

“It’s a very old-fashioned thing we’re doing,”Morris said. “In Lexington there is a novelty to it.”

For many in Lexington, Houlihan believes that the bookshop will either be a rediscovery of the small boutique or a return to what the old shop once was.

“It’s been fun,” Houlihan said. “We’ve had nothing but good feedback.”

The Morris Book Shop is located at 408 Southland Drive, across from the Good Foods Co-Op. The bookstore is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. To reach the Morris Book Shop, call 859-276-0494.