The Store Detective: May Books, New Orleans
In our new series we speak to the people behind some of the best fine-art bookshops in the world
Émilie Lamy recognised a business opportunity when she saw it. “There were a lot of galleries and architecture practices in New Orleans,” explains the French-born proprietress of the city’s May Books store, "but there was no place to find art books and magazines and those kind of publications.”
Lamy, who has a background in publishing and graphic design, holds dual French and US nationality, and had always planned to spend some time in the States. Having visited on many occasions, she decided to settle in the Crescent City towards the beginning of this year, and opened May Books in the spring.
The independent bookshop, launched in conjunction with the city’s May Gallery, and housed inside the vintage furniture store Sterling Provision in the Marigny district, focusses on visual and graphic arts, architecture, photography, music, and food.
Lamy says the location, close to the French Quarter, brings in a wide variety of walk-up customers, and that the city’s cultural make-up has grown more diverse since Hurricane Katrina. “A lot of people came over from other states to work on recovery and rebuilding programmes,” she explains, “the city is slowly changing, for the better, I think.”
Sterling Provision’s clientele are also a source of custom for May Books, and vice-versa. “Some come in for a sofa and leave with a furniture monogram,” she says. “Others buy a coffee table to put their books on.”
So which Phaidon titles are doing well? “The Design Book has been popular,” she explains, “and so is Mexico The Cookbook. The Vitamin series also does well, and the Wallpaper* City guides do well.”
However, other more obscure titles from our back catalogue are also steady sellers. “Jazz Greats,” says Lamy, referring to our canonical music-history book “is, as you’d expect, a bit of a hit.” Proof that, while Émilie might cater for the newer side of New Orleans, she also recognises the city's heritage too.