Old Town Books creates a cozy community nook on the waterfront

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Old Town Books opened in late November as a community-centric bookstore that hosts monthly book clubs, workshops and open mic nights. (Photo Credits: Missy Schrott)
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By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com

Old Town has long been known as a small business hub, featuring countless restaurants, boutiques and gift stores, but Alexandria native Ally Kirkpatrick noticed something was missing – an independent bookstore.

While niche staples like children’s bookshop Hooray for Books! and used-book retailer Book Bank thrive on upper King Street, owner Kirkpatrick opened Old Town Books in November to fill Old Town’s general interest bookstore void. The shop is temporarily located at 104 S. Union St. beside Old Town’s antique Starbucks while Kirkpatrick seeks a permanent location.

Laura Chasen, the store’s buyer, said its inventory varies based on what is popular and what the community is interested in.

“It’s a mixture of art and business,” she said. “We definitely follow our noses for books that we hear are coming out and that particularly interest the people and the staff in the shop … and also talking to our customers and getting a sense what’s selling, what people want and what this community reads.”

That being said, Chasen said Old Town Books is meant to be more than just a place to snag the latest bestseller.

“[Kirkpatrick’s] goal really is to make this more than just a bookstore,” Chasen said. “We want it to be a community center, a place where we can have some concerts here and all sorts of events programming to kind of bring the community together.”

Since opening the weekend after Thanksgiving, that goal of turning the store into a community nook has gradually become a reality. Already, Old Town Books has hosted author talks, a wreathmaking class, indie guitarists, bookstore yoga and a “book lovers mingle” leading up to Valentine’s Day. The store also plans to put on an Alexandria Literary Festival this summer.

Events coming up in the next few weeks include Lit Mag Corner, a new monthly event where attendees will meet book-club-style to discuss magazine pieces, on Feb. 24 and Old Town Books Club, which will be discussing “Sugar Run” by Mesha Maren on March 2.

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