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A new bookstore, A Novel Idea on Passyunk, just opened in South Philly, leaving people excited but also curious. “Do people even buy books anymore?” and “How do you plan to make this work?” are questions neighbors have been popping in to ask, but owners Christina Rosso-Schneider and Alex Schneider just smile.
They’ve done their research and know that what they have to offer is exactly what many are looking for: a community-minded bookstore and event space that focuses on promoting local authors and artisans.
Folks around here
When they say they are a community-minded bookstore and event space, they mean that they want the bookstore to represent the surrounding community. “We want the bookstore to reflect not only us,” Christina explains, “but the people who live around here.” That means not just local-author events, but things beyond the strictly literary realm, like movie or game nights.
Part of Christina’s dream for A Novel Idea is to become a community event space for local artists and writers to hang out, browse books, and talk about their writing and what they’re reading. The owners want to be a space in the community that is inclusive to anyone and everyone. “This bookstore and the idea that we’re trying to promote is only going to be as successful as the community wants it to be,” she says.
While many wonder whether an independent bookstore can compete in a world run by Amazon and big-box stores, this is why Alex and Christina believe they will thrive.
The indie renaissance
Christina, a writing professor, has noticed that technology-dependent 20- and 30-somethings are developing a type of nostalgia for indie stores and opportunities to unplug. They know they need to use technology on a regular basis, but at the end of the day also seem hungry for a different kind of connection.
“There’s something different about going into a bookstore,” she says. “It’s a different experience to go in person. You might find something you never expected to find.”
The co-owners believe people are yearning for a sense of discovery and an opportunity to connect, which they hope to offer through the many events on the calendar. Already scheduled for January are a handful of book-launch parties for area authors, poetry readings, book clubs, and children’s story hours. They have also started brainstorming collaborative events with area businesses, like a literary-themed DIY terrarium class with their neighbor on the avenue, Floral and Fauna.
But the keystone of A Novel Idea, Alex explains, is its focus on local authors and artists, including “everyone in the area you haven’t already heard of. They might not have a bestseller, but they’re great writers producing books that are worth your time.”
Upcoming local-author events include a celebration of Terra Olvr’s new poetry collection And Still To Sleep on January 12; the launch party for Effy Winter’s Flowers of the Flesh: A Collection of Romantic Poetry on January 25; a release party for Jeffrey S. Markovitz’s second novel Permanent for Now on February 2; and a meet-and-greet with M. Earl Smith, author of Philadelphia Big 5 on February 3.
And kicking it all off on Friday, January 4 is the official Grand Opening event from 7pm-9pm. There will be light refreshments, and a handful of authors from local publishing house Thirty West will be reading from their work. These include Scott Laudati, Kat Giordano, Erin Anastasia, and Josh Dale.
Browse, order, connect
The shop currently offers an array of books, from self-help to fiction, plus gender studies, sexuality, history, and more, but the owners want to hear your ideas and specific requests. If there’s a book you’re looking for that isn’t in stock, they would love to order it and can usually have it for you within 48 hours. If you are not sure what you are looking for, Christina and Alex are more than happy to make suggestions. Anyone interested in hosting an event at A Novel Idea can share ideas here, and Philly-based authors with published books can submit their information here.
A Novel Idea (1726 East Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia) is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11am to 7pm and on Sundays and Tuesdays from 11am to 5pm.
What, When, Where
A Novel Idea, at 1726 East Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11am to 7pm and on Sundays and Tuesdays from 11am to 5pm. (267) 764-1202.
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