Deep Vellum Books, which had a soft open on Commerce Street last fall but has not yet turned into the full-fledged bookstore originally announced, looks to be on the road to fulfilling that vision after all, now that publisher Will Evans has found a partner in Anne Hollander, who will step in as co-founder, Evans announced on Facebook last Friday.
Evans officially launched Deep Vellum Publishing, a house that exclusively publishes works in translation, two years ago in June. Since then he has published 27 books, many of which have earned critical acclaim. Sphinx and Tram 83, in particular, have already had multiple printings and garnered reviews on Fresh Air and in The Guardian and The New Yorker. What's more, Tram 83, the first work from the Democratic Republic of Congo to be published in English, was recently nominated for the prestigious Man Booker Prize.
Critically speaking, Deep Vellum is an unqualified success, although as Evans stated at a round-table discussion at The Wild Detectives in November, getting Dallas to help fund the nonprofit has been an ongoing struggle. When Evans announced last year that Deep Vellum would open a companion bookstore in its namesake, bookstore-less neighborhood, Deep Ellum, it seemed like a great next step, although a challenging one to execute for a company that has, at most, had two full-time employees.
Deep Vellum's books have been for sale at the Commerce Street bookstore (as well as numerous others around town) since its soft opening in fall 2015, and author Kendra Greene has recently been holding the store open to engage passersby and other visitors. But the space has been better known for hosting events, namely DIY concerts under Arthur Peña's label Vice Palace.
Evans is solely responsible for selecting the books Deep Vellum publishes, acquiring rights and managing the many facets of day-to-day operation of a publishing house — not to mention that he recently became a father — and it simply proved too great a responsibility to allow for getting the bookstore properly off the ground. He needed someone to help him develop it and manage it. Without that help, the future of Deep Vellum Books seemed uncertain, and never more so than when Evans posted this on Facebook on June 2:
Anybody want to run a bookstore? I need a business partner. I'm looking to step back from Deep Vellum Books and am looking for a partner to step in and take over the day to day operations and to take it to the next level. If that person is you, hit me up. If nothing comes up I'll close the bookstore in the next week after a fire sale to sell as much stock as possible. And I'm stepping back only because I've finally stretched myself too thin — being a dad and running a publishing house single-handedly and starting up a new venture I'll be able to share so soon. The money in the store is good. The space is amazing. The landlords get it fundamentally (which is so rare, and so beautiful). I just need a partner, the store needs a Javi to my Paco, you Dallas The Wild Detectives homies know what I mean. Let's carry on the magic! ?#literarydallas
Evans had already secured affordable rent in an increasingly expensive neighborhood, and in a building with landlords who got the vision, but he was nevertheless prepared to let the bookstore die before it ever really took off. Thankfully, that didn't come to pass because a few weeks ago, a friend with an extensive background in books, Brandon Kennedy, introduced Evans to the person who would become his new partner.
Anne Hollander's background is in business. Her area of expertise is consumer-oriented marketing technology, which she's brought to companies in industries ranging from air travel to computer software to oil and gas. Her resume is decidedly different from that of Evans, who has a graduate degree in Russian from Duke University.
"We are the sun and the moon, and we're both deeply committed to the vision," Hollander says via email. "When we met, it was uncanny. We both spoke at once, echoing the same words. I'd talked myself out of the project earlier that day, saying a bookstore in 2016 is too steep a hill to climb. But the decision to join was instant.
"Our vision is to nurture a lifestyle," she continues. "We're uniting the cultural community. We're cultivating the next generation. And we're starting with people and books and art and music and performance. It's a bold idea in a modest shop: a bookstore designed for the people, by the people it serves."
Hopefully their differences will make them an efficient team in Deep Vellum Books and ensure its healthy future.
An official grand opening for Deep Vellum Books, 3000 Commerce St., is expected to be announced soon. For now, its hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. The next event there is the launch of the White Rock Zine Machine on Friday, July 22. More info here.