Though plenty of D.C. neighborhoods have connections to the world of books, Petworth’s literary street-cred is particularly solid. Science fiction writer Philip K. Dick briefly lived on Varnum Street; famed muckraker Upton Sinclair is buried in Rock Creek Cemetery; and George Pelecanos‘ private eye character Derek Strange lives and works on Upshur Street.
And this summer, on the same block as Strange’s fictional office, Petworth will get another dose of literature: a brick-and-mortar bookstore.
Upshur Books, from noted restaurateur Paul Ruppert, will open in late summer at 827 Upshur Street, adjacent to Petworth Citizen, Ruppert’s book-focused bar and restaurant. He and his team have been working on the concept for about six months, since their landlord approached them about renting the former Hair Impressions space next door. “Upshur Street has this great retail direction with Willow and Bentley’s [Vintage Furniture and Collectibles] and Fia’s [Fabulous Finds],” he says. “We thought that doing something retail-related and having it be related to what we were doing at Petworth Citizen could work really well.”
With the advent of e-books and a public library a few hundred yards away, can the neighborhood support Ruppert’s business model? He’s confident that it can. “It’s a business that really resonates in the community and that’s really important to what we’re doing,” he says, noting the success of Petworth Citizen’s reading room, a lending library and event space that hosts live readings and events with local authors. When Upshur Books opens, its management will take over the programming at the reading room and the bookstore.
As for the connection between the bar and the store, don’t expect to carry your craft brew into the land of books. Events aside, the two businesses will operate independently, though Ruppert hopes customers will consider reading their new purchases at Petworth Citizen. Once the bookstore opens, he’ll consider opening Petworth Citizen earlier on weekdays to coincide with the store’s hours.
At 800 square feet, Upshur Books won’t have space for every genre, so its inventory will focus on literary fiction, poetry, art books, and works by local authors, and it’ll house a children’s section aimed at the neighborhood’s younger residents. The store will also sell a small selection of cards and miscellany. Kristina Bilonick, a visual artist and the founder of Pleasant Plains Workshop, is taking the lead on the project with Ruppert.
For now, the team is soliciting donations via an online campaign. Founders Circle members can pledge $250, $500, or $1,000 in exchange for store credit and discounts. They’re also looking for a full-time manager. If you’ve always wanted to manage a bookstore like the lead in a ’90s romantic comedy, here’s your chance.
Upshur Street image via Google Maps