On Independent Bookstore Day (April 30), New York City will add a third children’s specialty store, after Bank Street Bookstore and Books of Wonder. Novelist Maggie Pouncey (Perfect Reader) and her husband, technology entrepreneur Matt Miller, are launching Stories, a 450 sq. ft. storefront, and a 200 sq. ft. Storytelling Lab for teaching kids about writing and illustration, in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, a few doors down from the former home of Bergen Street Comics.
The bookstore and writing workshop concept came together quickly for the couple. “We live in Clinton Hill, which is a 20 minute walk,” Pouncey told PW. “Last June I walked by and there was a ‘for rent’ sign in the window. It’s such a lovely block of small businesses, and it’s pretty accessible to a lot of neighborhoods. The landlord talked about the Bergen Street Community being so sad with the closing of the comics shop.”
Pouncey and Miller, who have two young children, were surprised that there wasn’t a children’s bookstore in Brooklyn, given the number of young families in the area. Another reason for opening the store, Pouncey said: “I do really feel like we’re in a golden age of children’s literature.” Stories will be geared toward younger kids, at least to start. The storytelling labs will include master classes with authors and illustrators and eventually 10-week workshops. “I feel like there are a lot of good writing workshops for adults,” Pouncey said, “but not as many for kids.” She wants to fill that void.
If the rapid success of Stories’ Kickstarter campaign, is any indication, Miller and Pouncey are not the only parents hungry to bring their children to a specialty kids’ bookstore. With three weeks left to go, they’ve raised more than $14,000 toward their goal of $25,000 to pay for rent, staff, and other expenses. The couple also received an SBA (Small Business Administration) loan earlier this month.
As a mother, teacher, and writer, Pouncey said that she’s used to multi-tasking. But pulling together the store in such a short time has raised the need to do myriad things at once to a new level. She’s had to refocus her writing from fiction to business plans, loans, and web copy, while her husband continues to consult several days a week to bring in much needed cash.
Pouncey, who is a big reader, is not worried about buying for the store. “Because we’re not a big shop, we’re going to start small,” she said. “We’re going to look at it as an evolving inventory.” Her background as a writer includes a lot of time spent in bookstores, plus she figures that she will learn on the job. Nearby Brooklyn booksellers have already offered their expertise and support. Rebecca Fitting at Greenlight Bookstore, which is in the midst of opening a second Brooklyn store, was among the first to welcome Pouncey and Mille and told them, “ ‘The world needs more independent bookstores.’ ”
The pair has lots of ideas for the store, including publishing journals of the children’s work and selling books online. But for now, Pouncey and Miller are focused on getting the store open. They have hired a manager, Heidi Tannenbaum, who previously managed Housing Works in New York.
There is still much to do and April 30 could turn out to be more of a sneak peek date for the neighborhood to visit Stories. If that’s the case, the bookstore will close for a couple weeks and then reopen. The couple plan to use the summer as a time to experiment with programming and stock.