News today in the Boston Globe that a group has started the Davis Bookstore Project, referring to Somerville's Davis Square neighborhood - where I once lived. (Somerville is in the Boston metro area, just beyond Cambridge, for those unfamiliar.) This ragtag bunch of internet developers, authors, publishers, and others hope to attract a bookseller to open a bookstore. This seems like an odd approach but hey, Somerville's kind of an odd place. It's an admirable mission that I certainly want to publicize here.
These folks are still bummed that McIntyre & Moore picked up and left the area not that long ago, moving to Mass Ave in Cambridge (actually, not too far away). This bookstore was a very eccentric sort of place, in many ways, and perhaps it still is. In Davis Square, it sat alongside vestiges of older Somerville, which was more of a working class enclave before the Red Line arrived and things changed, turning the place into a home for post-college creative types, and authors, and some queer folk, and academics, etc... There was McIntyre & Moore, and there was the McDonald's, and a discount grocery store, and the ubiquitous Dunkin' Donuts. But McIntyre & Moore smelled like a used bookstore, and was overflowing with somewhat overpriced (truth be told) used scholarly books of all kinds. The staff was also rather odd and eccentric, but devoted. I once walked in and asked if they ever hire folks part-time, and the person there openly laughed and said, "We just don't have turn over."
So M&M left and no one has moved into that spot and now these folks are saying well dammit, someone should. But it does seem strange, given that a really great and relatively new indie is just down Elm Street - Porter Square Books. I believe - and hope - that this place has done very well, and I know that they have well-attended events at the store fairly often. I know this is a very literate area, but can they really support two independents, especially with the world renowned Harvard Bookstore just 2 T stops, or a 30 or so minute walk or an even shorter bike ride, away.
In the last few years, Jessica Stockton Bagnulo - aka the Book Nerd - got a lot of attention after winning a Citibank competition for new businesses, giving her $15,000 to open Greenlight Bookstore in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn. Perhaps the Davis Bookstore Project can start attracting more attention as Bagnulo did - the Globe article got picked up by Shelf Awareness, so that's a start - and the ball can really get going, and some entrepreneur(s) can step up and make this thing happen.
The other idea is to have this group try the non-profit route (one store mentioned: Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee), though I know that one non-profit "store" hit snags recently somewhere that resulted in closing very soon after opening. (sorry, can't remember where to link...) I guess the key to non-profit status is making it about more than just selling books, which truth be told plays into an idea I've had percolating but won't go into. In Davis Square, though, I can easily imagine some crafty folks doing classes in bookbinding and other book arts, and other events that show a commitment to the community, thereby allowing for 501C3 status.
There are exciting possibilities and I know I'm going to keep watching.