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CYSK: Joe Chevalier and Kelsey Hammond

The owners of Yellow Dog Bookshop discuss how they met, their passion for the bookselling field, and more.

How did you meet?

Joe: We met at Kepler’s Books & Magazines in Menlo Park, California. I had worked there previously but left for my first two years of graduate school and stopped in to see about returning to work. I happened to see Kelsey shelving books on the display tables and thought she was smart, a little sassy, and cute. She thought I was weird.

What keeps you busy
during the week?

Kelsey: When you own your own business, run a nonprofit, and have two kids, you spend a lot of time working. But when you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. Joe is primarily working on Yellow Dog, either working at home or at the shop. I am at the Columbia Art League or working on behalf of CAL at home.

What’s it like to work together?

J: We don’t often work next to each other, but we share out our work according to our strengths — whether it’s Kelsey developing the social media voice of the shop and coordinating the window displays while I work on the nuts and bolts of inventory and accounting, or me editing CAL brochures while Kelsey develops relationships with artists and community partners. We have a good sense of how to help each other in whatever we’re doing.

What interests or excites
you about working in the bookselling field?

J: I love the energy and passion people have around books — whether it’s sharing books they love with others or the excitement of getting into a new topic or author. 

K: I love that we are creating connections between people by encouraging people to read authors they haven’t read before. 

What brought you
both to Columbia?

K: We moved here in 2006.  Joe attended MU, and I found a great job at the MU Craft Studio. We bought the bookshop and changed the name to Yellow Dog Bookshop in 2013.

What is your favorite art/culture activity in Columbia?

J: Ragtag’s awesome movie selection, openings at Sager Braudis Gallery, or CAL. I’d like to get to more theater and music productions at Stephens and MU.

K: Art in the Park, Roots n’ Blues, and True/False Film Fest. True/False is probably our favorite because it brings in so many folks who are also big readers, which makes it one of the biggest weekends of the year for us.

What do you like to do
in your free time?

J: Read! Also playing with the children, going for a walk, or taking in a movie when we can.

K: We don’t have a ton of free time together, but we like to read and spend time with our kids and dogs. I’m an artist, so I spend a fair amount of my free time in my studio.

What is the best quality
of your partner?

J: Her creativity. She brings her creative, artistic sensibility to bear on just about everything she does.

K: Joe is committed to social justice and making things better for others. Through his work at Yellow Dog, he is able to connect readers with books that they want to read, but also need to read. 

What is unique about
your relationship?

K: I hope this isn’t unique, but we really like each other, and we aren’t afraid to be silly.

J: We always try to make each other laugh. Also, we have a stuffed monkey named Omelet who talks to us. 

What has been your favorite project to work on together?

J: Opening Yellow Dog was a true team effort: developing our vision for the shop, planning out all the steps necessary to open, reorganizing and repainting with our friends, and turning the sign on our first day. I always carry with me the memory of all we did to bring the shop from crazy idea to thriving reality. 

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