Opening a Small-Town Bookstore During the Pandemic Was the Craziest Thing We Ever Did
This is a piece I just wrote for Texas Monthly. Yes, I just opened my own bookstore outside Austin, Texas. If you want to support the store, you can follow us on Instagram, sign up for our email list or pick up a book online!
When you tell people you’re thinking about opening a bookstore, they’re quick to respond, I’ve always wanted to do that.
It’s every book lover’s fantasy. Yet nothing can quite prepare you for the reality of starting any business, even under normal conditions. Certainly, few dreamers think to prepare for the nightmare of a global pandemic that shutters most brick-and-mortar retail, disrupts supply chains, and kills hundreds of thousands of your fellow citizens.
In January of last year, my wife and I put our life savings down on a 140-year-old building on Main Street in Bastrop, a small town outside Austin—East of Weird goes the slogan—where we’ve lived since 2015. We’d spotted the storefront, which is part of the National Register of Historic Places, while having breakfast one morning at Maxine’s Cafe, just across the street and a few doors down. By February we’d hired our first employees and started renovations. We envisioned hosting events, welcoming customers from the community, and drawing people to this beautiful street on the bluffs of the Colorado River.
Yet by the first week of March, what began with such excitement found me, for obvious reasons, standing between the empty brick walls thinking of that Arrested Development line: I’ve made a huge mistake.
I thought I had some sense of what could go wrong with the venture. Whenever I’m considering an idea I’m excited about, I like to ask friends to talk me out of it. In late 2019, I was cautioned with plenty of pessimistic scenarios and potential difficulties. It’ll take longer than you think. It will cost more than you think. It will be more work than you think.
All of this was correct.
That it would take longer, cost more, and require more work I understood. But that it would then sit unopened for months?
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