An open house for This House of Books, a community-owned bookstore going into downtown Billings, is scheduled for Thursday, June 30.
The event will run from 5 to 7 p.m. in the old Wendy’s restaurant at Second Avenue North and North 29th Street. Local residents and potential members of the cooperative bookstore will be able to have a look at the building, meet people involved in the project and sample some of the teas that will be featured in the store’s tea bar. Light snacks will also be served.
A press release from This House of Books said its mission “is to build a cultural hub in downtown Billings for book lovers.” As a co-op, the bookstore is selling voting shares for $100 and dividend shares for $500.
In addition to selling new books, the store will host book signings and author talks, poetry readings, tea tastings, book club gatherings, writers groups, story times for children, game nights, acoustic music nights, comedy and other events.
The book selection will be broad enough to satisfy most tastes, but it will focus on regional authors and subjects, education books, nature and science and classics, and also a strong children’s section. There will also be a wide selection of tabletop games.
As we reported last month, Gary Robson will be the store’s manager and CEO. He and his wife, Kathy, own Red Lodge Books & Tea, and their entire inventory, plus shelving, furniture and other fixtures, has been purchased by the cooperative.
Robson had originally planned to close the Red Lodge store this month, but he has decided to keep it open through July 31, to capitalize on the tourist-heavy summer season.
The plan is to have This House of Books open by Sept. 1, Robson said Friday. He also said the board of directors running the cooperative hopes to have the lease papers signed by the date of the open house.
“Then we can start tearing the inside of it all apart,” he said.
Along with people buying shares in the business, Robson said, some people have offered to help with demolition, construction and other work. “That can make a big difference in both our costs and our schedule,” he said.
The tea bar will be serving light food, so a portion of the old Wendy’s kitchen will be preserved, but most of it will be torn out, as will a wall separating the kitchen from the dining area. That part of the store will be used for tea bar seating and possibly for the children’s section, Robson said.
The store has an open center section circled by an oval-shaped mezzanine that used to be used for seating. There are also restrooms and office space on that level. Robson said the mezzanine will be used initially for open seating, where people can read books or drink tea, with the larger space used for meetings, book clubs and the like.
In a later phase, after an elevator is installed, Robson said, parts of the mezzanine will also be used for retail sales.
In addition to Robson, members of the bookstore board are Carrie Le Seur, president; Precious McKenzie, vice president; and Nina Hernandez, treasurer-secretary.
“Writers have responded enthusiastically to a community-owned bookstore in Billings, and quite a few have purchased shares,” La Seur said in a press release. “We’ll be highlighting their books at the open house and in the store when it opens.”
For more information about the bookstore, volunteer opportunities and how to join the cooperative, visit ThisHouseofBooks.com.