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Hannibal Goes Indie: Ft. Laura Gibbons' Red Hen Bookshop

How Did You First Get Started?

Lots of baby steps that snowballed very quickly lol. Going back to about 2011, I wasn’t in a good place where I was employed (now former). I had completed an Associates of Arts in ’07, and decided to finally complete my Bachelor's degree. I had previous experience with independent contracting and marginally running a business, and knew it was something I enjoyed. So I spent 22 months barely sleeping and working two jobs and taking care of the (then very little) chicks while completing a ton of coursework each week for online classes and came away with a newfound appreciation for pillows and ergonomic chairs, as well as my BS in Business Admin and Management.

After two more years of job hunting, I came away frustrated that I could not find decent children’s literature, or any decent literature available for purchase for that matter, I started talking with my husband about opening a bookstore (and, incidentally, using that degree I worked so hard to get) to meet a need. I knew early on what the name would be based on: The Little Red Hen as told by Florence White Williams; I love folk tales and this is the one I have loved the most and remembered the longest. There was a lot of prep work: making a business plan, revising the business plan, revising again, revising again, speaking to bookstore owners, speaking to business professionals, speaking to publishers and distributors and tax professionals, and revising that business plan a few more times (you should revisit a business plan at least once a year anyway), and then running an Indiegogo campaign to cover at least part of my start up fees. In the first few months I changed website hosts, made some mistakes, and learned a lot of lessons.

Why Do You Love It?

Why? (or as I am sure my own chicks are thinking sometimes: “whhhyyyyyyyyyyyy?????

in their very best whine)

Firstly, I LOVE books. Always have, always will.We should open a bookstore” is the bibliophile version of “we should open a bar” or “we should start a band” We have all thought it at some point.

Secondly, I want other people to be able to get the books they love locally, and with a good variety. Before the website went live, there was no “full service” bookstore in this corner of the state, and when the Book Stop closed in Quincy, to this entire region from north of St. Louis to a little east of the river. It is only our (incredible and fantastic) library that kept this region from being a “book desert”. I don’t think people should have to drive an hour or more to go to a bookstore, and that is why I intend (Lord willing and the creek don’t rise) to have a brick and mortar store in Hannibal.

Thirdly, I LOVE watching people from the very small to the very tall love on books and discover more books to love; or discover their love for books. I love talking books with people. I love making an impact through books.

Finally, I have a purpose: better access to books to encourage literacy. Did you know: the adult illiteracy rate in the US is just over 40% as of the last assessment in 2003. That breaks down to 14% of the population being unable to read past a “below basic” level, and 29% having a “basic” reading level. (

Literacy impacts so much of our lives, from personal decision making, to job performance, how literate our children are, right up to how the economy performs and how many people are incarcerated. ( Beyond that, readers tend to be psychologically healthier and more empathetic to those around them. I’m a bit of a crusader when it comes to access to books and literacy, and books in the home improve literacy outcomes across the board. *hops off soapbox*


Bio: The Red Hen Bookshop is owned by me,

Laura Gibbons. I have lived in the Hannibal area since moving here with my parents in the late 90s, with a few years in Columbia at Stephens College getting my first degree. I currently live a few miles outside Hannibal with my husband, two daughters (the little chicks), two dogs, two cats, two hedgehogs, and a gecko - it's a bit of a zoo sometimes. I was raised by inveterate readers who soon moved from Dr. Seuss to Curious George to Rudyard Kipling to Tolkien for bedtime stories by the time I was five and my third (and youngest) brother had been born. I credit them with my inability to get through the day without reading something for fun and relaxation as well as education.

Support & Follow Laura Here: Social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (I am an early Millennial [of the Oregon Trail era]

- I can’t handle alllll the social networking sites, so I hit the main three only :) )


Did you enjoy learning about local indie bookshop owner, Laura Gibbons? Know any other locals (bookstore owners, librarians, people involved in the publishing industry etc) who'd like to be featured on the next #WriFri? Send 'em Ryan's way! Just contact me using the (you guessed it) 'Contact Ryan' tab somewhere on the tiptop of this screen!


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