For the second time this week, a crowd anticipating the opening of iconic bookstore Tattered Cover’s Colorado Springs location gathered outside its red brick storefront.
Tattered Cover, the state’s largest independent bookstore, has been a popular destination for both Denver locals and out-of-towners and a stronghold for independent literary culture for half a century. The excitement for the store’s first location outside of the Denver metropolitan area was abuzz among the dozens of people, young and old, waiting before the store’s paper-covered windows at 112 N. Tejon St.
Most were also there on Tuesday, the store’s original grand opening day, when an employee told the waiting booklovers that the store was postponing its opening another day, as some of its 75,000 books were still being shelved.
But on Wednesday, despite the interior lacking the finishing touches, Tattered Cover CEO and co-owner Kwame Spearman officially opened the downtown location for business. The customers didn’t seem to mind that the shop wasn’t completely furnished or that many books still lay in piles to be shelved.
“Every hour it’s going to keep getting better and better,” Spearman said as guests cheered and poured inside. “You should all know that you are the first customers of Tattered Cover, Colorado Springs.”
Susan Gaebler, a woman donning a full-length, book-patterned dress and pewter book earrings, stood out in the crowd and embodied the kind of passion for literature that Tattered Cover has helped foster for decades. She discovered the bookstore’s first location in Cherry Creek in 1984 and has been a patron of its various locations ever since.
“I was amazed, because it was this huge bookstore,” Gaebler said, remembering her first steps in a Tattered Cover. “In Colorado, we’re not used to those big bookstores like in New York City. It reminded me of the Strand and a lot of other bookstores that are in New York. I was impressed with the service and the quality and the people who were very knowledgeable. ”
Gaebler, a librarian and teacher at The Colorado Springs School, moved with her husband Mark to Colorado Springs about five years ago, away from Tattered Cover territory. She fiddled with a pewter book pendant, its cover inscribed with the name of prolific author HG Wells, on her necklace as Mark recounted her years-long pining for a location in Colorado Springs.
The red brick building, which formerly housed the Zeezo’s costume shop, now houses an emporium of a different kind of magic. Gaebler said independent bookstores are important because they offer a personality and connection with readers that often lacks outside of brick-and-mortar vendors.
“Independent bookstores,” she said, “have a wider variety of authors and the people who sell the books are more versatile, and they have more knowledge.”
Spearman said he was relieved and excited to finally be open as he arranged more books inside.
“It’s so energizing,” the CEO said. “Staff and I have been working really hard, and to see – I think there were 40 people outside when we opened our doors – and to just experience them walking in and taking in the store for the first time, it’s absolutely amazing.”
Like many other bookstores around the nation, the local Tattered Cover also features a café, and even a full-service bar, allowing customers to sip wine and brews of various sorts during their book browsing.
The store is set to initially operate 10 am to 8 pm Monday through Saturday and 10 am to 6 pm Sundays. However, the store anticipates expanding hours to earlier in the morning to capitalize on morning coffee drinkers, store manager Leah Guest said.
Spearman said the store functions through selling books, but that he wishes it to also be a “community institution” that is woven into the “fabric” of the Colorado Springs community.
“Books create intellectual curiosity, books create discourse, books allow you to go to places you’ve never been before,” he said. “If you look at how polarized our country is right now, and you look at the demographics… that are coming in (the store), they’re interacting, and they’re gonna find something they fall in love (with). This is the solution moving forward. And that’s why we’re so happy to be in Colorado Springs. “