The inspiring true story behind a new bookstore in Fort Thomas, KY

The Hidden Chapter Bookstore on North Fort Thomas Avenue began as a COVID-era dream for husband and wife owners, Dave and Lacey Mulcahy. “During that time, we turned a spare room in our home into a library,” recalls Dave. He built wrap-around shelves that the pair rapidly filled with books, the inviting colorful spines creating a cozy backdrop for their homebound lives.

“We started and ended most days there, and found ourselves wishing we could spend the rest of our lives like that, just drinking coffee, surrounded by books,” he says.

Soon that wish turned into a “what-if” that quickly gained momentum. “Since then, it’s really been a mad rush to bring to life in the physical world what I had imagined in my head,” says Dave. “It all happened so fast,” agrees Lacey. “Honestly, it doesn’t even feel completely real yet — it’s still sinking in that we actually did it.”

Entering a magical realm

Walking into the bookstore that opened in October of 2023, just a few months after Dave and Lacey got married, you’re swept into a whimsical landscape. “I wanted something akin to a fairytale realm,” he explains. “Like the shire from Lord of the Rings, or the Hogwarts castle, in walking distance from your front door.” Lacey gives Dave credit for bringing their shared dream to life. “He has done such a wonderful job of taking the things I say and the pictures I show him and turning it into a reality,” she says.

Overall, the shop exudes warmth and welcome, with a virtual fire crackling amidst book-lined walls, and an intimate smaller back room featuring an old-fashioned desk with a vintage typewriter and a deep rose-colored velvet loveseat. Dark and dreamy artwork in ornate gilded frames decorates the walls, and a sparkling crystal chandelier adds a touch of gothic romance. Patrons can buy coffee or wine, and settle in to browse and read.

Most of the books are fiction, organized by categories including young adult literature, novels, sci-fi and fantasy, romance, plus a healthy dose of mystery, horror and thrillers. Additionally, there’s a small selection of kids’ books, all reasonably priced. The Hidden Chapter offers a majority of used titles largely handpicked by Dave from library and estate sales.

There’s a sign tucked in the storefront window that reads, “Book Dragon… Not Worm,” which sci-fi and fantasy fans might know means Dave’s more book collector than reader. “My wife and daughter are both bookworms, they devour books,” explains Dave. “But a book dragon is someone who hordes books, the same way dragons have this obsession with collecting gold.”

Family is the key

The door of the Hidden Chapter Bookstore is emblazoned with a giant golden key. You get the feeling you’ll soon unlock something magical inside — and you can tell that’s how Dave feels about the whole endeavor as well. For him, it’s been an intensely personal journey involving his whole family.

His father, Big Dave, and daughter Maddie, 16, a sophomore at Highlands High School in Ft. Thomas, are often at the store helping out. Lacey teaches special education with a specialization in learning disabilities at Simon Kenton High School in Independence. But when school’s out, she’s in the shop helping to stock the shelves with her favorite genres: fantasy, romance, and historical fiction.

“It’s like we all have a key, and the door won’t open unless we all use our keys to open it together,” says Dave. “I love seeing my daughter be a part of this adventure. Win, lose or draw, we’ve already accomplished something huge by making it happen.”

The shop is already becoming a neighborhood fixture, with customers stopping in to pick up titles they’ve ordered for themselves and as gifts for friends. One regular comes in each week to replenish his stack of sci-fi inspiration to fuel his daily Dungeons & Dragons play. It’s truly a community spot that welcomes neighbors of all ages to dip into a world of books right around the corner.

Book lover? Fort Thomas Avenue has got you cover to cover:

Hidden Chapter Bookstore
Whimsical, inviting bookstore with a focus on used books, mostly fiction, plus coffee and wine available.
118 N. Fort Thomas Avenue
Sunday: 11am – 7pm
Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Wednesday: 8am – 7pm
Thursday-Saturday: 8am – 8pm

Blue Marble Books
Children’s bookstore with a wide selection of titles and a Goodnight Moon-inspired room.
1356 S. Fort Thomas Avenue
Sunday-Monday: closed
Tuesday-Wednesday: 1-am – 5pm
Thursday: 12pm – 7pm
Friday-Saturday: 10am – 5pm
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Jessica Bozsan.

Jessica Bozsan is a writer, content marketer and overall passionate communicator who lives in Ft. Thomas, KY, with her hectic family of five. She’s also a reader of novels, a yogi, a walker and a hiker. Additionally, she loves to knit, sew, draw, make jewelry and throw pottery on the wheel.