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Seven Stories and America's Youngest Bookstore Owner


By Zoe Perzo

At fourteen years old, Halley Vincent is the youngest bookstore owner in America. That’s not an honorary title. Vincent is the founder of Seven Stories in Shawnee, Kansas. She manages the shop, curates the collection, forges community partnerships, and so much more. I met with Vincent to hear about her origin, motivation, and experience as our youngest bookseller. Halley Vincent, fourteen year old owner of Seven Stories

Vincent opened Seven Stories in 2022 when she was twelve years old, but she’s been active in her community for years. At eight, she started hosting bake sales and donating the profits to the pet shelter. Soon, she switched to volunteering at the shelter and reading to the animals.

“Reading to the animals helped socialize them,” she recalled, “but it was also great reading practice for me and my sister.”

Eventually that evolved into Vincent’s first solo project, Paws Up KC, a fully incorporated 501(c)(3). 

Continuing the themes of literacy and supporting pet shelters, Vincent started to give out free books through Paws Up KC and passed on any donations to the local animal shelters. What began as a little free library in front of their house quickly grew into a bookmobile. 

Halley Vincent couldn’t (and still can’t) legally drive. So the first Paws Up KC bookmobile was a modified lawnmower that she used to deliver books throughout her neighborhood and collect donations. Halley Vincent in front of the Paws Up KC bookmobile, which was a modified lawnmower.

The bookmobile has since been upgraded to a small Cushman truck that appears regularly at events like the local farmers market. 

“We’re going into our fourth bookmobile season at the farmers market. Last year I gave out 800 books over 52 events,” Vincent told me. 

After a few years of the bookmobile, Vincent was ready to take on a new challenge, so she created Seven Stories. 

“I still give away free books,” she said. “But now I also sell them. And it’s two very separate worlds.”

Seven Stories’ first location was only 97 square feet. Last year they were able to relocate. Vincent now has 400 square feet to work with and is right across the street from City Hall and the farmer’s market. 

“I started [the store],” Vincent said, “but it’s totally a family thing now.”

While Vincent is the only full-time employee, her mother and younger sister often work at the store. It’s currently just the three of them, but they’re hoping to eventually hire more staff.

Though she’s had the support of her mother and younger sister the whole way, it’s always been up to Vincent to make her projects a success. Throughout her work with Paws Up KC and Seven Stories, Vincent has had to be creative and resourceful in order to succeed. 

“Now I have bookcases,” she said. “But all of my shelving in my first store were things that I found at an auction or pulled out of my garage — things that were falling apart that I had to glue or duct tape together.”

She told me about a nearby indie bookstore that she was excited to support. In comparing their opening process to her own, she zeroed in on a key difference in their journeys.

“Their first book order was multiple delivery trucks,” Vincent recalled. “My first order was $150. It wouldn't even fill up one of my bookcases now. But because I had such a small budget, I had to work really hard to curate that selection.” 

Her budget left no room for mistakes, and she credits that as part of her success today. The limitations she experienced forced her to be creative, adapt, and to carefully consider each decision. 

“Where that was my biggest challenge, it’s also a greatness in a way.”

Today, Halley Vincent manages Seven Stories, continues to run Paws Up KC, and attends high school. 

“I’m a freshman in high school,” she said. “And I’m here [at the bookstore] every day after school and on the weekends. So it’s an interesting balance.”

The packed schedule can cause problems. Being such a young business owner has made her a minor celebrity, and people often visit the store to meet her, only to find she’s at school. And she’s often thinking of the store when she can’t be there.

“I’ve been working on our website recently. I would finish my schoolwork and then work on the website from school.”

Vincent spends every moment she can at the bookstore, and particularly enjoys connecting with the people in her community. 

Though she was once a shy kid, talking to people has become one of her greatest skills. She excels at handselling and makes an effort to remember each of her customers.

“I feel like people come to my store for the experience,” she explained. “They want to be talked to. They want a book recommendation.”

Her willingness to connect with people, create partnerships, and be visible and active in her community are a large part of Seven Stories’ success. 

If you’re interested in visiting Seven Stories in Shawnee, you can check out the store’s website, Facebook, or Instagram. Stop by any day of the week (except Mondays — they’re closed) to explore the store. Seven Stories also hosts local author events every Thursday evening.