Indy Reads Brings Literary Touch to Mass Ave

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Three years of work came to fruition today for Indy Reads with the 11 a.m. opening of its new bookstore on Mass Ave. A modest crowd filled the beautifully designed interior of the spot to take a look at the first bookstore to grace downtown since Borders left last year.

“It’s been a long time coming,” says Travis DiNicola, executive director of the bookstore’s parent organization, Indy Reads (and co-host of WFYI’s “The Art of the Matter”). DiNicola was all smiles as he talked with patrons and sipped celebratory champagne.

Two years ago, DiNicola approached Margot Lacy Eccles with a proposal for a bookstore, and Eccles gave the project her full support. “She loved the idea, and really helped to come up with the business plan,” DiNicola says, “It was her idea to have it on the Cultural Trail. She wanted spaces for students and tutors to meet, for there to be a stage if possible. She gave us the first donation that helped fund the start-up costs.”

After that, other donors lined up, and by April 2012, the team had found the perfect spot. “For a while we weren’t really sure if we could afford the space,” says DiNicola, “but we just kept coming back to it.”

Nikki Sutton, who has worked for ExactTarget and Girls Inc., was in charge of the redesign, which features finished wood, green pastels, and the use of books as part of the structure: One columns appears to be made entirely from stacked novels. “One of my favorite elements is the chalkboard paint,” says DiNicola. “Bookstores always struggle with changing sections, and this is just a brilliant solution.”

The hard work and ingenuity paid off, and dozens of book lovers and curious Mass Ave residents filed through to check out the ample selections. Some even stopped to enjoy them, like Mary VanHoy, who sat on the sleek black couch next to the children’s section to read to her three-year-old granddaughter, Eleanor.

“I love that it’s not just going to be a bookstore, it’s going to be a meeting place,” says VanHoy as Eleanor picked out another book. “I just think it’s a great addition.”

There were certainly enough books on hand, and DiNicola explained there are many more. “We have about twice this many books in the basement and more in storage,” he says, referring to the tomes stocked on shelves. “In fact, a woman in Lafayette just contacted us: She’s got 4,000 books we need to pick up.”

It was all hands on deck at Indy Reads Books, with a full (all-volunteer) staff who couldn’t seem to wipe the enthusiastic smiles off their faces. Unfortunately, Margot Lacy Eccles passed away late last month before she could see the store. DiNocola is still grappling with the loss. “None of this would have happened without Margot,” he says, voice breaking.

Watching Mary VanHoy read to her granddaughter and knowing that soon the nooks of the beautiful building will be filled with students and tutors, it’s clear that not just bibliophiles have a reason to be thankful for the work that DiNicola and Eccles have done. We wait eagerly for the next page in the story.

For more on Indy Reads Adult Literacy program, see its website here.

>> MORE at Indy Reads Books today here, a Q&A with author John Green as he signed autographs on the store’s first day.

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