We caught up with Dallas Bell, the owner of everyone’s favorite local bookstore, Burrowing Owl, to share all about how she ended up here and why she started a bookstore.
If you’ve frequented the reading corner of From 6th Collective, then that means you’ve caught a glimpse of Burrowing Owl Books. Save a trip out west in the future by visiting their two additional locations, one in Amarillo and their original location in Canyon. Find out more about what this tiny but mighty bookseller has going on below.
What landed you in the Texas Panhandle? And what made you choose Canyon as the place you call home.
My husbands job. He was recruited by Texas Tech to come out and work at the hospital. While we were originally looking to build in Amarillo, our realtor showed us this wonderful place right outside of Canyon on a few acres with a barn. Since my husband enjoys working outside with animals and dabbling in woodworking, we decided it was the place for us.
What made you decide to open a store to sell books on the Canyon Square?
It’s kind of funny because it sounds like everything revolves around my husband, but we were at one of his conferences in Chicago when we got off the L train at the wrong spot. We were walking to pick up a new pass to get back on the train when we stumbled into a little used bookshop. It was in this quaint little part of Chicago we thought “Wow, it would be really cool if Canyon had a bookshop on the square!”.
Were you the first independent bookstore here in Canyon?
We weren’t the first, Buffalo Books was still here when we opened. They mostly focused on books for the college, but we’re the first fully recreational reading bookstore.
You’ve been here for a little while now. What part of your business are you the most proud of?
I’m probably the most proud of the community mindedness that we have within Canyon as well as Amarillo. We really aim to be very community oriented. We want to interact with our customers to get to know them and get to know what they want and like, and have bookclubs, and story times, and try to fill that need where we share ideas and share books together.
Touching on that topic, we have bookclub out at the Collective once a month so our customers know about that already, but can you tell us about any other story times or bookclubs you have going on?
We have a bookclub in Canyon as well that meets monthly during the daytime. We used to have story time before the pandemic which kind of shut it down, but we’re starting that again soon! It takes place at 10:30 am here in Canyon one Friday every month. We’re also getting one going out in Bushland on February 17th.
I know you also have authors come to your locations to do readings or signings. Can you tell me what you have coming up and how people can stay informed for future events?
We have two signings already available for this year. We’re super excited, Brenda Novak, who is a nationally known romance writer, will be coming on April 17th. She and Jodi Thomas will have a combined signing and author meet & greet. You can find out more information and buy a ticket on our Facebook page. We also have a surprise visit coming up that I can’t tell you much about other than it’s more for children. Again, just follow our Facebook page or just call one of our shops and ask.
Do those all take place at your Amarillo location?
Our Amarillo location has more space so they’re typically there, but we have them at both. Taylor Moore was one of our recent authors to host a signing at the Canyon location.
Today we’re sitting in your home base. While your main location is still in Canyon, you recently relocated on the Square. This space looks incredible and has some unique history. Would you mind giving us some of your favorite things about the building itself?
The fun thing about this was we chose the hottest day of last year to move, it was 114*, just to throw that out there. It was so worth the trouble to move into this building though. It was built in 1909 and was the third building to be built on the square. So we have the beautiful tile floors and the plaster ceilings that are in fantastic condition. It was restored by our wonderful landlord back in the 1980’s. He cares a lot about preserving the history here and it took him a full year to do so. It was originally a bank so we have a vault in the back. We have plans to turn it into a really fun reading nook or some kind of special space. There’s so much potential here and we’re looking forward to working on that this year. The natural light is also incredible. It makes it feel like you’re walking onto a movie set. Interestingly enough, when the bank originally opened back in 1909 the electrical company had only been in Canyon for a year and offered a maximum of 4 hours of electricity every day. In order for the bank to expand hours, they had to make the best use of natural light. Lots of history. There have been bank robberies here even!
When you say bank robberies, that reminds me that you found something pretty funny in the vault when you first moved in right?
Yes, I was going through a box that we had packed up in the vault and found the book, Robbing Banks was My Business. It was written by J. Evetts Haley and it was the story of John Harvey Bailey. The crazy thing about the book however, is that it’s actually signed by both the author and the bank robber.
At this point you have three locations, so what is it that you’re looking forward to growing within your business this year?
I really hope to expand out some of my services. I want to expand the author signings by pulling more nationally known authors to come do signings and events. I’m also really hoping to expand our bookclubs and story times.
You gave me the best tip last year that allows customers to support Burrowing Owl with audio book purchases too. Can you tell us about that?
You can support Burrowing Owl on Libro.fm, look up Burrowing Owl books as your local store and you’ll be able to support us with your audio downloads. If you’re looking for a new book, you can look up Burrowing Owl books on bookshop.com. You can order specifically from that website while supporting us as well.