Soon after moving to Lafayette for a job at a law firm, Bryan Dupree came across a group of French tourists downtown.
Dupree, who speaks French fluently, answered a few questions for the tourists but couldn’t help them find a place to purchase a postcard.
“This sort of light bulb went off,” Dupree said. “And I thought, ‘We’ll create a place where you can buy a postcard.'”
The concept has expanded considerably since that November day last year.
Now, it’s blossomed into Beausoleil Books and The Whisper Room, a bookstore and speakeasy-style bar set to open in October at 302A Jefferson St. The 3,000-square-foot storefront most recently housed Cloves Indian Café.
Dupree is opening the business with three friends he met during law school at LSU.
“We want it to be a very welcoming place where anyone can come and be welcome,” Dupree said. “We intend to have classic books and national best-sellers, but we also intend to feature local and diverse authors. It’s all just a part of our mission to be inclusive and welcoming to everyone.”
There will also be a children’s section, and story time will be offered eventually when it’s safe to do so.
The space will include comfy armchairs for diving into books ahead of purchasing, along with bar seating that looks out onto Jefferson Street.
Beausoleil Books is named for Joseph “Beausoleil” Broussard, the Cajun folk hero who led one of the earliest groups of Acadians to south Louisiana. It also translates to “beautiful sun.”
Dupree is a seventh-generation Louisianan and direct descendant of Beausoleil Broussard.
Although Dupree didn’t grow up speaking French at home, he took it in school from a young age. One of his French teachers asked Dupree if he knew of his family’s history, which sparked Dupree’s curiosity. He would eventually earn advanced degrees in French and work as a French tour guide.
Dupree is partnering with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy to promote French literature in Lafayette through the bookstore.
“We will be their only Louisiana partnership,” Dupree said. “This has been the most exciting part for me, promoting French literacy in Louisiana, especially with all of the children’s books we’re going to have. Reading in French at a young age is a wonderful thing.”
The Whisper Room name is twofold as well. It is primarily a nod to the Prohibition-era speakeasies, but it also evokes a library vibe that’s fitting for a bookstore bar.
“It’s a place you can just walk in casually,” Dupree said. “There might be a wait for the restaurant downtown, and you want a glass of wine. Or you’re going to hear some live music and you just need a place to gather before. Additionally, we’re hoping it’ll be a place where book clubs might want to meet.”
The Whisper Room will be in a separate room in the same retail space, accessible through the bookstore or directly from the street.
The bar will offer craft cocktails, specialty wines and local brews with amble seating.
There will also be special candles and cocktails on rotation that are designed to pair with a featured book of the month.
Beausoleil Books will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday initially. Once COVID-19 restrictions ease up, The Whisper Room will be open later hours.