The Hidden Lantern Provides Delight in Rosemary Beach

November 14, 2011 by Joyce Owen

Nestled at the north end of the commercial district on Barrett’s Square in Rosemary Beach is The Hidden Lantern Bookstore and Gallery. It is a booklover’s treasure where story times and book signings co-exist with art exhibitions and hands-on art workshops.

When people first heard a bookstore was coming to Rosemary Beach, there was some surprise at such a venture with big chains close by and another independent bookseller on 30-A, but the Carvalho family believed it was the right thing to do.

Lauren Carvalho graduated from Dallas Baptist University with a degree in fine arts and moved to the area with an idea to open a gallery that would allow her to continue to create art and promote local artists.

Her parents, Tony and Diane Carvalho, had purchased a second home in Rosemary Beach, and eagerly joined in the endeavor. The problem was finding a place that could house the bookstore Tony and Diane hoped to open and Lauren’s art gallery. So many available spots were just too small, until they discovered a large unfinished space in Rosemary that had potential.

Tony admits this is the first time they have opened a store and that they have no retail experience, but he is confident they will succeed with God’s help and guidance.

“I always felt led to do this. He will make up for our shortcomings,” Tony says.
Of course, no one anticipated how long it would take to finish the interior and get the store ready to open.

Tony jokes they had hoped to open for the holidays last year or this year’s Super Bowl, but ultimately they were pleased to open in May, just in time for the summer season.

“We didn’t break any land speed records getting it done, but we had a choice to do it right or do it fast,” Tony says.

After a visit to the shop, it’s clear they did it right. The Carvalho’s have created a welcoming spot for customers.

The daily quote on the chalkboard out front is an indication that those who love words will feel right at home. But great care was also taken to provide visual stimulation at every turn, not only displays of art, but artistic spins on bookstore necessities. A unique cupboard-like bookcase at the entrance catches the eye and draws visitors to the display and then further into the shop. A ship shaped chandelier, discovered in Dallas, seems the perfect illumination for the reading area where children gather for story time on Wednesdays.

Sitting together on a comfortable chair or snuggling up on the sofa, stories are read and decisions are made on which purchases will satisfy young readers and their parents.
The cozy little cubes were chose over beanbag chairs for the extra support they provide, Diane says. The sofa and chairs are covered with outdoor fabric that is durable for this busy section of the bookstore.

“We wanted it to be like a family room,” Tony says.

And so it goes throughout the bookstore and adjoining art gallery, attention to detail gives visitors much to look at and even more to discover on repeat visits.

There are also activities to bring people back to The Hidden Lantern – book signings, children’s story time and art openings – are scheduled throughout the year. Plans for the off season include book clubs in the morning, after school programs for kids and workshops in the gallery.

One of the positive aspects of running an independent bookstore is there is time to do research and personally assist customers, says bookstore manager Paige Daugherty.
“I suggest books from the time I get here until I go home,” she says.

There are plenty of books to consider. After more than 4,000 books were ordered and placed on shelves, Lauren realized, “We needed more books.”

Now with 6,000 titles, there’s a wide selection that includes bestsellers and beloved classics, children’s books and beach reads.

When asked about plans to compete with the big chains, online booksellers or e-readers, Tony says it is not on the short-term business plan.

“There’s plenty to do working on this instead of battling Amazon,” he says.

Eventually the couple expects to retire here. Tony hopes they will have another 30 to 40 years to run the store and further its influence through local churches and charitable organizations. But in the near future, there are plans to establish a ministry with a bible study group and other outreach programs.

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