Porter Square Books will open a second location in Boston’s Seaport District, taking a ground floor space in a new literary center that will house the creative writing non-profit GrubStreet and the poetry non-profit Mass Poetry. GrubStreet executive director Eve Bridburg made the announcement at the organization’s annual Muse and the Marketplace conference at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel on April 6.
“It is so exciting,” said Porter Square Books co-owner David Sandberg. “These days successful bookstores are successful community places. We’ve had a really close relationship with GrubStreet because there is a philosophical affinity between what we care about and what they care about, and this played right into it.”
GrubStreet’s Bridburg has led the effort to create the facility, which will house classrooms, offices, a performance space, a café and the 1,300 sq. ft. bookstore. "We’ve always thought of Boston as a literary city, but this marks a true turning point," Bridburg said.
After an initial plan to partner with Harvard Book Store did not advance, Porter Square Books stepped in; a decision that Bridburg said is essential to establishing the new center as a literary hub. “They are a terrific local bookstore, known for their incredible support of writers and the local writing scene,” said Bridburg. “They are excited to sell books relevant to our classes and the craft of writing and to highlight local writers. We can’t wait to partner with them on book launches. They share our values.”
The addition of a second store would have been impossible a year ago, Sandberg said, but with the implementation of a financing agreement that gave 10 of the Cambridge-based store’s booksellers an ownership stake in the store, they were able to consider expanding operations.
“We’ve been approached before about opening a second store,” said Sandberg, who purchased Porter Square Books with his wife, Dina Mardell, in 2013. “We had always said ‘we have enough on our plate.’ It was specifically because we did this employee ownership program last year that we felt it’s not just us taking this on, it’s a group of us.” The entire management team reviewed and approved the expansion.
The presence of only a handful of bookstores in Boston was also significant factor in the owners’ decision to open the new location. “There’s a million neighborhoods where there are no bookstores,” said Sandberg. “That’s outrageous.”
With the addition of Porter Square Books, that appears to be changing. It is the second independent bookstore to announce plans for a Boston location in as many months. New York City’s Posman Books is slated to open a location in the city’s Back Bay neighborhood later this year.
While the opportunity to expand into a neighborhood that has never had a bookstore is promising, Sandberg said it will also push the store in new ways. “It’s a challenge to us that we’re ready to take on,” said Sandberg. “If we’re going to walk the walk, can we make something out of that? Can we say, here’s a new area, a new community, can we shape it? Can we have a real effect on that community?”