For more than a year, Jeremy Ellis says he’s been turning over what a Dallas bookstore could and should be. While working as a general manager at Houston-based Brazos Bookstore he made attempts to return to Dallas with a new branch of that iconic bookstore, but was never able to get the pieces to fall together. That is, until he met his partners, Lori Feathers and Nancy Perot, daughter of local billionaire H. Ross.
“We had more or less given up on opening a Brazos and then Nancy arrived [in fall 2016], sort of out of the blue,” Ellis told the Observer over the phone. “When we met we really shared the same vision right away. There was a synergy right out of our first meeting; we just sort of understood each other and that has just continued to grow.”
Nancy Perot has been developing her own idea for an iconic Dallas book store for more than 25 years, and Feathers, who originally sought Ellis’ advice on opening a bookstore in Dallas, is now co-owner and book buyer for the new store.
The trio will open Interabang Books in a 5,000-square-foot location at Preston Road and Royal Lane. Ellis says the Barnes & Noble, catty-corner from where Interabang will open in May, has been a major stopping point for touring authors for years. That’s a distinction that Ellis, who will function as both general manager and operating partner, is hoping to bring to the new store with his 20-plus years of experience working in independent bookstores.
“There is definitely an audience in Dallas that is ready for big books. They are ready to read,” Ellis says. “People are excited for the possibilities and quite frankly the response to the announcement that we made in the paper last week was really, not overwhelming, but it was really encouraging. … I’ve been in other places where you make that kind of announcement and it’s not exactly ho hum but it’s like, ‘Eh, we’re excited, tell us when you open,’ and here there’s really nothing to see yet except a website and some social media-platforms and people are already clamoring.”
The idea of an independent bookstore cropping up just across the street from a Barnes and Noble, and right next door to a Central Market, may initially seem odd to some Dallasites. Similarly minded stores like Deep Vellum and the Wild Detectives opted to set up shop in trendy neighborhoods, serving coffee or food or booze to entice millennials to stop by and maybe pick up a few new tomes for their bookshelves.
Ellis says the biggest difference between Interabang and other stores is a difference of viewpoint.
“The big difference between us and what Wild Detectives and Deep Vellum are doing — both stores which I love and admire, I know the players at both of them and I’ve been sort of watching what they’ve been doing carefully — but they really are sort of specialty stores,” he says. “Their focus is really narrow and very, very curated and that’s fantastic. I go browse at both of them and enjoy having them as a resource, but we’ll be a general bookstore.”
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Interabang is hoping to be a corner-stone for the literary scene in Dallas by functioning as a true book store. You might be able to get a cup of coffee while you browse their stock of fiction, creative non-fiction and children’s books, but the focus will be on the books, which will be curated and chosen by the people who work there. The staff’s passion and the community’s interests will stock the shelves as opposed to corporate mandates.
“What your individual staff is passionate about is really what leads the business. … Great writing is really our, I think, guiding light,” Ellis said. “You have thousands of books published each week and the wheel rolls forward. So it’s really just a matter of finding the great things in there and showing the people who are coming in and saying, ‘This is what we think is great,’ and then there’s something great tomorrow too or next week and that wheel just keeps turning. So being a place where you can constantly discover something new and something that you didn’t know you otherwise really needed to be reading, I think that’s one of our missions.”
Interabang is already taking applications for new employees and will begin hiring passionate readers to man their store as of this spring. The store will eventually host more than 200 book signings a year as well as celebrations such as “Heming-day,” a celebration of the birth of author Ernest Hemingway, and a day to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the death of Jane Austin later this summer.
“This is a store that is going to be founded and put together by a group of people. It’s not just going to be implementing my vision or Nancy’s vision in isolation, we’re all going to collaborate and make a thing that’s really special together,” Ellis says.