Monday, September 26, 2011

Rebel Bookseller in Pittsburgh

I've invited Andrew Laties, longtime bookseller and author of Rebel Bookseller, to Pittsburgh (from Massachusetts) for an event next Monday, October 3rd. Copacetic Comics (Polish Hill) is graciously sponsoring this event, and one phase of the event will be held downstairs at Lili Coffee Shop. Laties thinks that 2011 is a great time to open a bookstore, and he'll tell you why. Event schedule will be as follows:

Rebel Bookseller in Pittsburgh
6:00pm: Meet & greet with author Andrew Laties upstairs at Copacetic Comics
Reading & panel discussion downstairs at Lili Coffee Shop
Book signing upstairs at Copacetic

The subtitle of the book, "Why Indie Bookstores Represent Everything You Want to Fight for from Free Speech to Buying Local to Building Communities" makes me think of the resilience of, and communities that surround, so many mom and pop stores in Pittsburgh, as well as the creativity that drives so many Pittsburgh small business ventures. I should note that Rebel Bookseller, although a chronicle of Laties' years of starting and running indie bookstores, has been embraced as a helpful manual by indie businesses of various kinds. The book is now out in its second edition on Seven Stories Press but was originally published by Vox Pop (a Brooklyn bookstore/cafe and publisher opened by Laties and Sander Hicks) in 2005.

As part of Laties' visit, I've organized a panel discussion with local store owners in some kind of transition. Bill Boichel at Copacetic has been selling comics in the Pittsburgh area for over 30 years; he just moved his bookstore from Squirrel Hill to Polish Hill a little over a year ago and added a branch at the Toonseum about 6 months before that. Frank Oreto has been co-running Eljay's Used Books since the mid-90s and recently relocated the store to Dormont from the South Side. And Jovon Higgins recently opened 720 Music, Clothing, & Cafe on Butler Street with her partner; the store also sells select music books and lifestyle magazines, and the space hosts readings, book talks, and music events. Pittsburgh mom and pop businesses seem to be doing well overall (whenever I go back to New York, I see more and more small businesses shuttering and chains moving in), and community seems to be a big part of that success: I want to hear more from these indie entrepreneurs about how their businesses build sustaining communities. The event was also definitely inspired by the event site: 3138 Dobson opened last May as a triple-threat of indie businesses: bookstore, record store, and groovy cafe. The building has become a favorite hangout and the gem of the neighborhood.

I invite other small business owners as well as anyone interested in bookstores, the future of Pittsburgh storefronts, the semiotics of indie businesses, or grassroots urban planing to come to the event and join in the conversation.

Panel Discussion: "Indie Bookstores and Small Businesses Creating Communities"
Andrew Laties, Rebel Bookseller author
Bill Boichel, Copacetic Comics
Jovon Higgins, 720 Music, Clothing, & Cafe
Frank Oreto, Eljay's Used Books
Karen Lillis--moderator

Rebel Bookseller in Pittsburgh
Monday, October 3rd

3138 Dobson Street

Polish Hill

Facebook event page is here.

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