Interview with a Bookstore: Tattered Cover
The Inside Scoop on a Denver Institution
“We are a Denver institution, a community gathering place, and an experience you can’t download.” Tattered Cover owner Joyce Meskis is one of the great guiding forces of independent bookselling in the country and a stubborn advocate for the rights of readers, literacy and free expression in America. Tattered Cover opened in 1971, and now has five locations, including one at Denver International Airport. We spoke with several members of Tattered Cover staff on what makes their stores an integral part of the Denver literary community.
What’s your favorite section in the store?
My favorite section of our store is General Fiction. Many of those titles I consider dear friends. –Pete Schulte, Tattered Cover Union Station Retail Manager
If you had infinite space what would you add?
I would like to do major expansions of the poetry, philosophy, and psychology sections. Additionally, I would like to fill out every series in mystery, science fiction, fantasy and backlist fiction. –Joyce Meskis, Owner
What do you do better than any other bookstore?
I wouldn’t begin to compare the TC to other bookstores! We all do things very differently—which is what makes us indies and unique. One of the things that we are very proud of is our event program—signings, lectures, poetry readings, storytimes, receptions, community events—we host an average of 500 a year, and we take wonderful care of our visiting authors. –Heather Duncan, Director of Marketing
Better than any other book store, we listen to customers, the booksellers really try to understand their needs, and communicate without being patronizing or obtuse. –Judy Bulow, Children’s Frontlist Buyer
What’s the craziest situation you’ve ever had to deal with in the store?
The release of the Harry Potter books! Hundreds of kids (and adults) dressed up like their favorite characters and buying the books at midnight and then immediately finding a space in the store to start reading them. These were readers who could not wait for all things Harry! –Judy Bulow, Children’s Frontlist Buyer
What’s your earliest/best memory about visiting a bookstore as a child?
My first real bookstore memory was when we would visit family in Washington, Connecticut. My aunts were regulars at the Hickory Stick Bookshop and would take us there for a treat. It is of course still a thriving beautiful book store and now owned by my good friend Fran Keilty. Later, when I was in college, a favorite break would be to bicycle down to the Chinook Bookshop in downtown Colorado Springs. I felt so happy and relaxed browsing the store, not yet knowing that bookselling was my calling but somehow knowing where I felt truly at home. –Cathy Langer, Tattered Cover Lead Buyer
If you weren’t running/working at a bookstore what would you be doing?
I’d be doing freelance dramaturgy for the Denver theater scene, auditioning where I could, and reading like there was no tomorrow. –Erica Bates, Tattered Cover Aspen Grove Retail Manager
Teaching cooking classes. And trying to create a retail store to sell cookbooks and fabulous food items—with a demonstration kitchen! –Heather Duncan, Director of Marketing
What’s been the biggest surprise about running a bookstore?
How many wonderfully different and unique co-workers there are who love to read wonderfully different and unique books. And another surprise, the fact that there are so many books published and that I will never be able to read all of the ones I want to! –Judy Bulow, Children’s Frontlist Buyer
SLIDESHOW: Tattered Cover Staff Recommendations