New Dominion Bookshop’s manager, Julia Kudravetz, admitted on Monday afternoon that the bookstore’s employees are reeling from the protests and counter-protests that roiled Charlottesville this past weekend. But the downtown literary icon, which was founded in 1924, will keep its regular hours after shutting down early on Friday afternoon and all day Saturday and Sunday.
“We’re not a political bookshop, we’re a bookshop serving the community, and I wasn’t going to put my employees at risk by keeping the doors open with people carrying automatic guns running around town,” Kudravetz said, disclosing that counter-protester Heather Heyer’s death on Saturday afternoon when a car driven by a white supremacist rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters occurred at the intersection adjacent to the store. A vigil on Sunday evening filled the street in front of the store and media representatives continue to report from downtown Charlottesville.
While sales “were good” on Friday, Kudravetz said, “the energy seemed very off [and] strange” as local businesses prepared for the onslaught of white supremacists descending upon the college town. “Homeland Security had issued a warning,” she said, noting that the store had remained open during a Ku Klux Klan rally held in Charlottesville in July. While some businesses closed, others stayed open, but posted signs on their doors forbidding guns inside. “[I knew] nobody was going to come downtown [Saturday] to buy books,” she said.
“I wouldn’t say it feels normal today,” Kudravetz said, noting that while many of the store’s regular customers had been coming in throughout the day “checking in like you would with a family member,” others have been coming in search of “a comforting place.”
Kudravetz emphasized that the store’s offerings will continue to accommodate different political perspectives. “We have Conscience of a Conservative [by Senator Jeff Flake] in the window, along with Al Franken’s book [Al Franken: Giant of the Senate] and Young Radicals: In the War for American Ideals [by Jeremy McCarter].”
Update: The name of this bookstore was incorrect in a previous version of this story and has been corrected.