We talked to: Bookends
Hi, Madden! Could you tell us a bit about yourself, your business, and why you chose downtown Florence as a location?
I have always loved Florence. I lived on Maple Street, just down the street from Bookends, during my last couple of years of college. I frequently visited the bookstore to purchase books and rent movies. I also worked in a number of bookstores, including Grey Matter in Hadley, and worked independently with antique dealers. I would help them stage antiques, move items for older dealers, and help out at Brimfield. I’ve always loved the project of finding things—to me, it feels like a daily scavenger hunt.
As I was finishing up my master’s degree at UMASS in Creative Writing, I was considering leaving the area and starting from scratch in a new place. Then a friend of mine who lives in Connecticut sent me the listing for Bookends. We were going to go in on it together, but ultimately it didn’t work out for him. So I got a loan and secured the store on my own, taking it over from Grey Angell, the previous owner. It really felt like a wonderful homecoming, after all of the years of visiting the shop.
While there are days when I feel frustrated, tired, and financially dismal, it helps to remember that just as it’s been in my life for a while, the bookstore has meant so much to many others for even longer. Knowing that people enjoy coming here to browse, shop, and socialize helps make the challenges more bearable.
What are some challenges you’ve experienced as well as some positive things that have transpired in the past few years?
I think there’s been a slow navigation of community—figuring out what that looks like and how to create an inclusive community. We’ve had to take a frank look at the ways in which larger forces such as the government, institutions, etc. are not really reliable or there for us. In light of that, we have had to figure out how to show up for each other and create a community that’s independent of those structures.
Running a small, independent business can be very stressful and challenging, but I also feel it’s important to the community and offers people a valuable space in which to gather and socialize in a low-key environment. We are still emerging from the pandemic and a very isolating time, and I want the store to feel welcoming to everyone. That’s also why I’ve made the decision to continue requiring visitors to wear a mask so that everyone feels safe and respected. It’s a small yet manageable thing that people can do to continue to take care of each other.
What are some exciting things coming up for the store?
We just had some readings, and will definitely have more in the near future. In terms of the store itself, it’s a constant battle to avoid piles, so we are working on that. We’re also focused on getting to a financial equilibrium, which is a work in progress. I really enjoy collaborating with and hosting local reading groups, so we have some of those coming up. I am also very excited about getting a dog—that will be a fun new focus for me, and I’m looking forward to bringing her to the store regularly.
As business owners, what do you do to unwind/relax/rejuvenate?
For me, unwinding is not something I do easily or naturally. I honestly feel like if I unwound too much, I wouldn’t wind back up again. That said, when I’m not at Bookends, I do enjoy playing music. Also, being outside in nature and hanging out with my parents are activities I regularly enjoy. There’s so much I love to do, and I’d rather be busy and on the go.
And finally... What’s your favorite summer food and/or beverage?
I’m going to champion a couple of Florence businesses! My go-to Florence restaurant is Masa Mexicano. John and I both love it, and we order from there pretty frequently. I particularly enjoy their beef Barbacoa tacos. For beverages, I enjoy seltzer, orange juice, and a mimosa on a day off. I’m also loving beverages from the newly-opened Zen Frog Cafe next door. It’s so convenient to just pop over there, and they make really great coffee!