BookBug, Kalamazoo’s own independent bookstore, located at 3019 Oakland Drive, Kalamazoo, marks 10 years of service to the community with an expansion into a neighboring location. The building offers a significant boost in square footage–plus an actual back door–both of which were sorely needed for BookBug’s increasing inventory, distribution needs and community events.
The local bookstore was founded 10 years ago and is committed to ‘curating, discussing and celebrating new books and hosting preferred events,’ according to their website and reiterated by co-owner Joanna Parzakonis.
“BookBug was founded on a mission to build a book community in Kalamazoo, to build joy around books,” Parzakonis said. “It is about building conversation around those books, building energy around books, building energy around voice and story, and kids who are coming to us with their own stories or their own understanding of what books could or couldn’t do for them.”
At the outset, Parzakonis said, BookBug was especially focussed around children’s books, but has since come to include various genres. The original location now houses solely the children’s inventory while the new expansion contains their ever-growing selection of other books. Space for these books isn’t the only thing the location provides, however.
“As much as we were a bookstore and valued greatly the physical presence of books in our hands and in others’ hands, we knew that building book community was about a lot more than providing and offering books,” Parzakonis said.
BookBug intends to use their newfound space for a variety of community outreach events.
“So what this new space is empowering and enabling us to do is welcome even more people into our space for larger scale events,” Parzakonis said, “welcoming clubs and other people who are interested in having conversations around different topics into our cafe space, offering the potential to meet in our basement space for underground book clubs and things like that.”
Another crucial benefit of the expansion is the ability to distribute large orders of books. The space will be used ‘in service to BookBug’s organizational partners, many of which require shipments in the thousands.
“Part of serving the schools and part of serving organizations that are doing large orders is needing the physical capacity to fulfill those orders…you can’t distribute thousands of books to certain school districts without having the physical capacity to do that,” Parzakonis said. “And that was something in our current–what we call our original space–that was very very hard to do.”
The original space had no back entry and absolutely no storage. Though BookBug has a van, it has limited capacity.
“We were operating out of our own basements and out of our own garages to do those kinds of orders that are very very important to the bottom line of our business and to the goals of serving our community in the broadest way possible but physically overwhelming in a space that only has 2400 square feet,” she said.
According to Parzakonis, the construction process has been both exciting and overwhelming.
“The actual construction process, in the most fundamental way possible, is hard, and I think what we knew at the outset, too, in developing our space from the beginning was that creating the space of a bookstore has to be as careful and attentive as creating any meaningful work, right?” she said. “Any work of art, any story, takes time, takes thought, takes courage, takes all those things.”
According to Parzakonis, the community has responded mostly with excitement, accompanied by a fair bit of skepticism.
“We have heard people say ‘Can you do this? Can you be an independent bookstore in 2017 and survive? Can you be an independent bookstore in Kalamazoo and survive?’ We are convinced, quite confidently after ten years of service to the community, that the answer is yes,” Parzakonis said.
Parzakonis feels that the answer from Kalamazoo and the booklovers within it is the same, and will continue to support BookBug as a place to be inspired and come together as a community.
- I'm a senior and an OG student journalist (meaning I did it last year), but seeing as I love all things writing and current events, I figured I ought to combine the two and earn my journalism-legs. I tend to write what I'm passionate about (don't we all), whcih includes art, social issues, politics, entertainment, etc. My articles are primarily features and opinions. (Update: They're still features and opinions. Everything I write turns feature-y. Help.)
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