If you ask booksellers and West Michigan natives Chris Roe and Jonathan Shotwell, they’ll tell you every great city needs an equally great independent bookstore. One that brings people together, starts conversations, and reflects the passions, challenges and dynamics of its surrounding community.
And in a few months, that’s exactly what the pair hope to bring to downtown Grand Rapids with the opening of Books & Mortar
, a new indie venue that has a mission to be “a community-minded independent bookstore that enhances the quality of life for the people of Grand Rapids, Michigan through promoting a literacy culture, curating a socially conscious book selection, providing community space for open dialogue, offering retail space for local artists, and affirming the freedom of speech.”
Though Roe and Shotwell have spent the last five years earning masters degrees in Divinity at a Chicago graduate school, the couple lived in Grand Rapids for a few years prior to that and found themselves missing the opportunities to make an impact in communities much smaller than those they saw in the big city.
“We moved to Chicago, and we thought that would be a hotbed of all of these great neighborhoods with great buildings and great new projects, but it’s on such a huge scale that you don’t notice the difference when things change the way you do in a smaller place like Grand Rapids,” says Roe, an indie bookstore enthusiast.
“Everybody has a huge impact on the community and so something like one singular bookstore becomes another place where people meet each other, run into each other...it’s just so exciting to see people embracing retail in a city in a way that brings more people together,” he says.
Still in the process of negotiating a lease, Roe and Shotwell can’t reveal the future location of Books & Mortar quite yet, but say the store will be in a downtown-adjacent neighborhood with a diverse residential community and business demographic.
“It is kind of the confluence of a lot of different types of communities, and so it really hopefully will be a meeting place for many different types of Grand Rapidians and not just the typical progressive urban dweller,” says Roe.
The store will also be host to a second location for a local coffee maker, though they also are waiting to finalize the logistics before releasing more information about the partnership.
“I don’t know how to word this, but, honestly, the response we’ve gotten from people and leaders and neighbors and business owners in Grand Rapids has more than affirmed exactly why we wanted to come back in the first place,” Shotwell says. “It’s astounding.”
To stay updated
with the progress of Books & Mortar or learn more about the owners, visit Books & Mortar online here
or find them on Facebook
Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Books & Mortar
Enjoy this story? Sign up
for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.