The smooth wooden shelves have been installed, bordered by warm, exposed brick walls at the mostly empty space of the forthcoming Books Are Magic! at 225 Smith Street (corner of Butler Street) in Cobble Hill.
On this early Spring morning, the cool air blends with construction sounds from the inside of a future independent bookstore to create anticipation and excitement in a borough known for its hyperliterary neighbors and plentiful local authors.
All that’s needed now is for the shelves to fill up with pages and pages of books.
An email sent from owners Emma and Michael Fusco-Straub yesterday announced their opening on (or around) May 1.
“The store has lovely windows and lots of exposed brick, and about thirty of BookCourt’s bookshelves, each of them imbued with lots of good luck and bookselling love,” the co-owners wrote.
Those shelves pack a symbolic wallop.
Last October, BookCourt owners Mary Gannett and Henry Zook announced they’d be shuttering their 35-year-old independent bookstore on December 31, 2016. That news was met with chagrin, sadness, and choice words by faithful patrons of the well-stocked literary mecca.
“I was just at BookCourt last week for the Jason Diamond reading and things seemed normal! This is not okay,” neighbor Justin Fox told me at the time. “Nothing is okay. Fuck 2016.”
“BookCourt is not allowed to close. That is not okay. I am not okay with this turn of events,” said devoted patron Katy Peters.
The loss of BookCourt was a literary call-to-arms for local author Emma Straub and her husband Michael Fusco-Straub.
“When we found out in early October that BookCourt was going to close at the end of the year, we were truly heartbroken,” wrote Straub, who once worked for the store. “In addition to being my former employer, and the site of all five of my book launch parties, BookCourt is a part of our daily family life.”
And with that, Books Are Magic! will be launched.
“We’re making friends with our neighbors (expect fun collaborations in the near future),” yesterday’s email update said. “The best part is that every time we’re in the space, neighbors pass and poke their heads in and tell us that they’re happy we’re here. We are, too. ”
They also announced a series of collaborations which will happen with neighborhood businesses. Expect nearby cheesemonger Stinky Bklyn (215 Smith Street) to be one of those partnering with Books Are Magic! when they open.
In an interview with Huffington Post earlier this year, Straub, a best-selling author, championed the importance of the brick-and-mortar bookstore, and the “discoverability” which it allows for the browser.
“When you walk through a bookstore, you’re reminded of things that you love, and you see a cover that looks amazing, of a book you’ve never heard of by a person you’ve never heard of, and you pick it up and you flip it over and you read what it’s about and maybe you buy it,” said Straub. “And that doesn’t really happen online. You can’t just fall into something.”
The email also announced that a slew of notable authors have already been booked to have a variety of readings and engagements at the new bookstore, including Courtney Sullivan, Dan Chaon, Julia Sherman, Edan Lepucki, Jennifer Romolini, Elin Hilderbrand, Maile Meloy, Ben Percy, and Michael Chabon.
Straub hopes the neighborhood will enjoy the tactile experience of coming to a bookstore as much as she does. “Even when I don’t buy something, I always fondle a lot of things,” she says.