The Sunday Salon: The Tattered Cover Book Store

Greetings from Denver, dear readers! I’ve just finished my first week of the Denver Publishing Institute, which has been enlightening, fun, and exhausting. Because the program is only a month, it’s very intense. The first day was the longest; on top of the usual eight hours of class, there was an opening breakfast and an evening visit to the landmark Tattered Cover Book Store. Being an East Coast kid what was raised by French wolves, I’d never heard of it, which is an absolute shame. Here’s a post so that others may not follow in my footsteps. (I mean, you should follow my footsteps to the store. Just not the footsteps where you don’t know about it.)

The Tattered Cover Book Store began life in 1971, in a small bookshop in the Cherry Creek district of Denver. It grew modestly, but under the guidance of new owner Joyce Meskis in 1974, it blossomed. The retail space expanded seven times between 1975 and 1983. In January 1983, a new location opened a block east of the original store. By the November of 1986, the whole operation was moved into the newer location. This location was massive, eventually hosting four floors and the Fourth Story Restaurant and Bar. (How wonderful is that? A restaurant in a book store!) Unfortunately, the restaurant closed for good when that location moved to a former theater on Colfax in 2006.

While there is a third location in Highlands Ranch and plans for a fourth location at the Denver International Airport, the current heart of the operation is the Tattered Cover Book Store in lower downtown Denver, which opened in 1994. Of course, the literal beating heart of the Tattered Cover is Joyce Meskis, who is an incredible advocate for readers and free speech. She’s won tons of awards for her work, and she’s also the director of the Denver Publishing Institute. Selling the books of today (and yesterday; Tattered Cover added used books to their inventory in 2010) and teaching the publishers of tomorrow—no wonder the Tattered Cover is one of the major epicenters of independent book selling in the United States.

Tattered Cover Book Store: Here's What You Just Did!

At the lower downtown location, these placards greet you at check out, outlining all the reasons it’s important to not only shop local, but shop independent booksellers.

Tattered Cover Book Store: Very Important Books

The store is really a fantastic space—bookshelves are strategically located to create open and closed spaces, allowing customers to pick their way through the store at will. Nooks and crannies are important for book stores, as are tables, coffee, and, of course, free Wi-Fi. (Sometimes Panera just isn’t going to cut it.)

Tattered Cover Book Store: Eat Sleep Read

The bibliophile’s manifesto is displayed in store, letting you know you’re in the right place.

Tattered Cover Book Store: Charlie Shugarts Sculpture

This completely startled me when I ventured upstairs. While Charles “Charlie” Shugarts was a friend of the Tattered Cover, as the placard below him states, this sculpture was actually acquired by the store in 1990. Before that, he was part of an initiation to put art all along the 16th Street Mall in lower downtown Denver, but he didn’t age too well in the sun. He’s kept safely behind bars now, but it looks like he used to be out on the floor.

Tattered Cover Book Store: Lord of the Rings Poster

And upstairs, there was a little taste of home for me. I plan on going back and doing a proper raid one of these precious weekends (only three left! Holy crow!), but this was a lovely and heartening sight to see.

As I said, it’s been publishing all day, every day, for the past week, so there’s little to report besides happiness and absurdly tight hamstrings from sitting down for so long. I did see Pacific Rim last Sunday evening, which was amazing, and I recommend you see it before it leaves theaters. I have half a mind to march down to the IMAX down the street and see it again…

This week’s links:

This week’s acquisitions:

Purchased: Roverandom by J. R. R. Tolkien (thrift store)
Added: A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres (via Guernica), Casanova: Luxuria by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba (via The A.V. Club), Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres (via Guernica), The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich (via class), Seal Woman by Solveig Eggerz (via class), Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt (via class), ABC of Reading by Ezra Pound (via class), On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt (via class), Mona Lisa in Camelot by Margaret Leslie Davis (via class), The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt (via class), America: A Narrative History by George Brown Tindall and David E. Shi (via class), Words Like Loaded Pistols by Sam Leith (via class), The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee (via class), The Story of Webster’s Third by Herbert C. Morton (via class)

What’s the biggest independent bookstore you’ve ever been to?

7 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: The Tattered Cover Book Store

  1. Pingback: Sunday Caught My Interest | Reflections from the Hinterland

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