After spending the summer of 2021 road tripping across the country with her boyfriend in a converted bus, Kaleigh Basso decided she wanted a more sustainable lifestyle. While passing through Louisville on their way back to Georgia, Basso and her boyfriend decided they wanted to move to the Derby City.
“We packed up and moved here. It was very much like a spontaneous type thing,” Basso said.
Exactly one week after moving to the metro area in November 2021, Basso launched her business Set & Setting, an online bookstore geared towards affordability. On Saturday, Sept.17 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Basso will host her second-ever pop-up bookshop at Quills Coffee in Nulu, 802 E. Main St.
“It’s really hard right now to consistently bring in orders, which is why I started doing the pop-ups,” said Basso of the niche concept. “When you are primarily an online business and trying to market through social media, the algorithms very much work against you.”
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For her first pop-up last month, Basso set up near the courtyard area of Quills by the large garage door.
“As people were waiting for their coffee, they kind of just meandered over,” she said. “I met a bunch of people that were eager about books, and it was nice to be able to actually talk to people. I work for myself, and I work from home, so I’m very isolated all the time.”
The most expensive types of books she sells are new, hardcover books which sell for $13, but most other books are $10 or less. Hardcover books at large retailers can be upward of $30 each.
“Everyone has like five to 10 bucks, that they want to spend on a little treat for themselves,” Basso told the Courier Journal. “Some of those people want to spend (money) on books.”
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Basso keeps her prices at Set & Setting low by thrifting, utilizing wholesale vendors, and accepting book donations from the community.
To date, the online bookshop has sold 630 books, generating a net revenue between $3,000 and $4,000. Basso tries to always keep between 150 to 300 titles in stock, currently, she has 200 books, many of which will be for sale during her pop-ups at Quills.
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Born in Georgia and raised in a military family, Basso considers herself to be “from everywhere.” Now, a self-described “transplant” to Louisville, she is looking to find her community while putting down new roots.
“(I) don’t have a community here yet, so, I’m trying to pull one around me,” Basso said.
Prior to her move to Louisville, Basso ran two other businesses, which were also mainly online stores. In 2017, she opened her first business where she crafted earrings out of macramé and wire. Eventually, she quit that business to move to Atlanta, starting her second business where she made ornaments, statues, and earrings out of resin.
Like many others, she battled burnout. Her boyfriend encouraged her to take some time off and “just exist.” During this month-long break, she found herself doing a lot of reading. It was then she sat down and evaluated what she could do that would bring her joy.
“It’s always been books and reading and things like that, so I really just wanted to figure out how to turn books into (a business),” Basso said.
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Another thing that was important to her was being able to work for herself.
“I have ADHD, and I’m autistic,” Basso said. “I don’t work well for other people, just because I need accommodations and things like that.”
While neither of her first two businesses still exist, they helped Basso develop an online community that transcends geography.
“I’m fortunate that I have built an online community. It’s small, but it’s mighty,” she said.
Basso considers Louisville to be a book lovers’ place, noting the 17 library branches, beloved local shops like Carmichael’s Bookstore and big chains like Barnes and Noble and Half Price Books.
“There’s a lot of book things happening in this city,” she said. “I’m not trying necessarily to compete, I’m not trying to steal customers away from other businesses, I’m just trying to appeal to the people who want to get cheap books from a person that they recognize rather than Half Price Books or Goodwill.”
What’s next for Set & Setting bookshop in Louisville?
As Basso nears her company’s one-year anniversary, she is trying to focus on the positives while working toward long-term success.
“You want the instant gratification, you want the instances of success, but I think I’m getting to a point where I’m making moves every month. So I’m just trying to find pride in consistent persistence,” she said.
Eventually, Basso would like to turn Set & Setting into an online shop that also sells home goods and souvenir gifts at an affordable price, envisioning it as a one-stop shop for books and knickknacks.
“I really love trinkets and random things. But for now, it’s just an affordable online bookstore,” Basso said.
She also plans to eventually expand her pop-ups to additional spots, like breweries.
“I figured I would get my feet wet with Quills first and then see where it takes me,” said Basso.
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Her ultimate goal? Open a storefront where locals can enjoy affordable books and find a sense of community. Basso doesn’t have a lot of experience staying in one city for a long time but as she works to make Louisville her home, she has some dreams set in stone.
“(Set & Setting) started here. I hope that it stays here. I hope one day that I have a brick and mortar here,” said Basso.
Contact reporter Olivia Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @oliviamevans_
Set & Setting Pop-up Bookstore
WHAT: Browse a variety of books at this pop-up sale
WHERE: Quills Nulu, 802 E. Main St.
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Sept. 17, Oct. 22, Nov. 12 and Dec. 17