What’s in a Name?: The Frugal Frigate

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Frugal Frigate logoThe Frugal Frigate, A Children’s Bookstore in Redlands, California, is named after a poem by 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson, said store owner Gay Kolodzik.

Kolodzik, who bought The Frugal Frigate in 2010, spoke to Bookselling This Week for “What’s in a Name?” an occasional series highlighting some of the most interesting and unusual names of bookstores around the country.

Katherine Thomerson, who founded The Frugal Frigate in 1988 in an old carriage house, borrowed the name from Dickinson’s eight-line poem, which celebrates the act of reading as a transporting activity. Dickinson’s poem characterizes reading as a practice available to both rich and poor that can elevate the imagination and expand the mind’s horizons.

There is no Frigate like a Book” first appeared in a letter of Dickinson’s in 1873 and was published in 1894 in Volume I of her Letters. The poem reads:

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.

“I think Frugal Frigate is a perfect name for the store,” Kolodzik said. “Especially if you know the poem, it says so much; it says exactly what it is. And it’s a name that sparks the imagination.” If some customers are at first puzzled by the name, they do seem to appreciate it once the literary reference is explained to them, Kolodzik said, adding that  Dickinson’s poem can be found on posters around the store, a framed cross-stitch made by a customer, and the store’s free bookmarks.

The Frugal Frigate is a well-loved institution in the city of Redlands, and many customers liken the space to The Shop Around the Corner, the independent children’s bookstore owned by Meg Ryan’s character in the 1998 film You’ve Got Mail, said Kolodzik. The 1,500-square-foot space includes a party room, a loft, and a small stage, where Kolodzik frequently hosts readings and signings with local authors. The store also recently served as the book vendor for the annual Charlotte Huck Children’s Literature Festival at the University of Redlands.

“The Frugal Frigate has been here so long that I feel like it’s owned more by the Redlands community than by me,” said Kolodzik. “They love it here; I just maintain it.”