Owls have always been an important part of Amy Cooper’s life, so when she and her husband were generating names for their bookstore, owls kept coming to mind.
“The image of a barn owl kept coming up for me. I have always been drawn to owls and so had my mom,” Cooper said. “As my husband, Mike, and I were readying the store to open last year, I was looking through some items I had inherited from my folks, but hadn’t looked through since we moved. I unwrapped something wrapped in bath towels. It was a carved wooden barn owl that my dad had bought for my mom many years ago. It now sits in front of the cash wrap, greeting our customers.”
The Barn Owl Books & Gifts — a general-interest bookstore in McCall, Idaho, that has an emphasis on children’s books, nature and the outdoors, and books by local authors — opened last summer. Since then, Cooper has been able to incorporate her love of animals and wildlife into more than just the store’s selection.
“This summer, we began a partnership with our local animal shelter, MCPAWS. We host an adoptable cat at the store until someone falls in love and adopts them. They get the run of the store and love hanging out on the sales floor,” Cooper said. “And the best part is we build a literary theme around each cat. We’ve helped find homes for 10 cats so far, including Hemingway, Pete the Cat, Grey Catsby, and our current feline guest, Professor Minerva McGonagall.”
Other animal-related events The Barn Owl has hosted include an event on bats of the Payette National Forest and an archeological discussion about The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness; in December, the store will host a Santa Paws event, where community members will be able to bring their pets in to have their photos taken with Santa Claus.
Cooper has found one other way to incorporate her love for owls into her business: her official title is CEO — Chief Executive Owl.
“Throughout much of my career, titles mattered. It reflected where you were in your career and your organization and I took them rather to heart,” said Cooper. “When I opened The Barn Owl, what mattered was that I was doing something I loved and it felt freeing to have some fun with my title.”
Moving forward, the Coopers want The Barn Owl to continue to be “a gathering spot for the community — a place where all are welcome, where we can have conversations, discussions, and events that celebrate community, diversity, and learning.”
“It is an honor to own and operate an independent bookstore,” Cooper added. “I can’t wait to see what our second year holds.”