Union Avenue Books, a relatively new staple of downtown life, has been around since June 2011 and continues to engage customers on a regular basis. The owner, Flossie McNabb, runs the store with the help of her daughter, Bunnie Presswood.

Union Avenue Books is locally owned and independent, unlike Barnes & Noble or the local McKay's. According to Presswood, the attribute makes the store unique, as the book selection is hand selected and allows the duo to be more helpful to customers.

McNabb's previous store, Carpe Librum, closed in December of 2010 as it was too large to manage, but it was not long before she returned to her passion.

Union Avenue Books, set in the middle of Union Avenue in downtown Knoxville, contains all genres of books, and hosts book signings and events by local authors. Most recently, local John Rose, the current artist of the Snuffy Smith comic strip, came for a signing of his most recent book, "The Bodacious Best of Snuffy Smith."

Union Avenue Books, at first glance may feel like a typical bookstore, but the focus on the reader quickly becomes apparent. Although the store is small, the layout is open and friendly and causes customer's eyes to be led from one cover to another, from the large selection of books ranging from all different genres.

The selection at Union Avenue Books, while entertaining fans of all genres, is different in that all novels are hand-selected by the staff, giving the experience a much more personal feel.

"It's a smaller, handpicked selection of books, whereas they (McKay's) have everything, like everything, here we handpick the books that go on the shelf," Presswood said.

McNabb said she is also proud of the employees, saying they are more experienced than those at a larger chain, and that said that she has "knowledgeable bookseller."

"They really read and help out and can help people pick out books."

As far as events go, Presswood said the smaller atmosphere provides for a better experience overall.

"Ours are more smaller, people are able to talk and get questions," she said.

The independence of the store positively contributes to the 'book culture' of Knoxville, according to Robin Lovett, rising junior in Spanish. Lovett prefers shopping at Union Avenue Books, and finds in the store a better experience than most other bookstores and said it has "its own personality."

"Any time you go into a Barnes & Noble it looks exactly the same as the other Barnes & Noble that you've been in," Lovett said."Whenever I have a class where we're reading a novel instead of a textbook, I always try to buy my books there," she said.

As for Presswood and her mother, both said they proud of the impact they are having on the book culture in Knoxville.

"We have a book group that meets here, the last Wednesday of every month, and it's pretty big," she said. "We're involved with Friends of Literacy, Friends of the Library; it's definitely a book community."

The store is currently hosting a "Where's Waldo" event through Aug. 3 with the help of other local businesses. The event allows customers to pick up a passport from the bookstore and go to other downtown businesses looking for the famous striped character, all in exchange for a chance to win a prize.

Author Kevin West of Maryville is scheduled to come on Aug. 1 to promote his book, "Saving the Season: A cook's guide to home canning, pickling, and preserving."

"We're a local independent bookstore, we are here for the community," Presswood said.

Union Avenue Books is located at 517 Union Ave. The store is open Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and until 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. They are open on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information about Union Avenue Books and their upcoming events, visit www.unionavebooks.com.