Owners Danielle Alexander and Tim Albon say they were overwhelmed by the turnout for the grand opening of the new Bombadil Books at 315 S. Division, but in a good way.
“It’s great to see people so excited to have a used bookstore in downtown Grand Rapids again,” says Alexander, who held a grand opening ceremony with co-owner Albon on Nov. 11 for their new Avenue for the Arts storefront.
Though Alexander and Albon met while working in Denver, the Midwest-born entrepreneurs say they've always had a longterm plan of opening a used bookstore, but they didn't think it would be able to flourish in a large community like Denver.
“You definitely can’t start a small business at our age with our income level in a city as big as Denver,” Alexander says. “We started looking at commercial properties available in Grand Rapids and found this location we’re at now. It costs what I was paying for a studio apartment in Denver, so we thought, why not?”
After finding the building in August through the neighborhood revitalization corporation Dwelling Place, Alexander moved in September to start moving into the S. Division live-work space, which boasts 1,000 square feet of ground floor retail with separate first-floor living quarters behind. With past experience job shadowing at Literary Life on Wealthy Street, which has since closed and reopened as the non-profit Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters, Alexander saw a need of a bookstore in the downtown Grand Rapids area, especially after the closings of Literary Life and Schuler’s Books on Monroe Center.
She says “knowing (Literary Life) wasn’t here and there wasn’t an used bookstore — not even a new bookstore — except for Argo’s in Eastown,” was what ultimately motivated them to open Bombadil, and she says they’re glad they did.
“It’s great just being a part of the Avenue for the Arts and being a part of that small business community with people who have similar backgrounds to ours, who don’t necessarily have experience with owning a business, but are, a lot of them, artists who become business owners,” she says. “I don’t think we could have done this in any other neighborhood in Grand Rapids right now.”
Unique in its membership program, which allows customers to trade their own used books for in-store credit, Alexander and Albon say they wanted to have a more curated collection for Bombadil, with a range of genres and book styles to mirror its growing diversity in customers.
Right now, the pair say they want the space to be flexible and hope to host more gallery showings for area artists and photographers, as well as poetry readings and workshops on repair and conservation of used books, which is Albon’s specialty.
Ultimately, Alexander and Albon say they want Bombadil to be more than just a used bookstore — they want their storefront to be a meaningful part of the neighborhood’s fabric.
“We’re keeping it pretty fluid and open to see what people want from the bookstore, and that was really important to us in setting up and trying to use a membership model, or a ‘co-op model,’ as people are coining it,” she says. “We want it definitely to be a community space, a neighborhood book shop.”
For more information about Bombadil Books, visit them online
or find them here on Facebook
By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Tyler Wendling/Annamarie Buller
A closer look: Three ways Avenue of the Arts programming is changing S. Division