Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Independent Bookstore Day, Saturday May 2nd

Bookstores are what Ray Oldenburg calls "third places" and like libraries, are part of the informational and intellectual glue that support more intelligent participation in society.

In the right settings, books too can be a "social bridge" just like dogs and children, sparking interaction between people who might not otherwise know each other.

Bookstores too are part of the declining cultural infrastructure that Scott Timberg writes about in Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class ("'Culture Crash' examines the crisis in the creative industry," Los Angeles Times).

Timberg makes the point that since so many cultural workers pursue creative endeavors without making much money, they've worked on the side in places like record stores, book stores, restaurants, etc., and as those businesses fade away, people lose the means to support their creative efforts.

In line with Record Store Day, which was a few weeks ago, and Small Business Saturday, the holiday shopping day held the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, and aimed at getting people to do holiday shopping at small, locally owned, independent businesses, last year's California Bookstore Day has gone nationwide and expanded into this year's Independent Bookstore Day.

More than 300 stores are participating across the country, including Upshur Street Books in the Petworth neighborhood of DC.  The store opened last summer, and just received a nice write up in the Washington City Paper ("How a Dead Tree Bookstore Survives in Petworth").

They'll be opening early on Saturday, and have a number of deals and special events scheduled.

Upshur Street Books is "unusual" in that it is a retail offering delivered by a restauranteur.  But he is able to leverage business acumen across multiple properties, and by having it close to other operations, presumably there are some business economies of scale which help to reduce operating costs.

In the past blog entry "Food co-ops as potential anchors of "ethical commercial districts"," I discussed how the Weaver's Way Food Co-op in the small Mount Airy commercial district in Philadelphia anchors the district in a manner which supports other independent retailers who may have a hard time surviving in a normal market, but have advantages co-locating by a business that relies on "ethical" or values-motivated customers.

One of the stores there is the Big Blue Marble Bookstore, which while a bit bigger, is similar to the store on Upshur Street.  Restauranteurs like Paul Ruppert, "making a stand" in a particular location could have a kind of comparable anchoring impact to a food co-op, especially when they extend their operations to non-food retail.

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