Like some kind of literary allusion rising from its ashes, Open Books is back.
Open Books is an entirely volunteer-run, not-for-profit bookstore. Revenue from the store goes to support the Prison Books Project, which was established in 2000 to send books to prison inmates. More than 10,000 books have been sent to over 3,000 inmates since the project began.
“Any prisoner in Florida can write to us and request a book, and we mail it to them free of charge,” said Johnny Ardis, one of the project’s volunteer organizers. “The money we make selling books in our retail store goes to pay for postage.”
When word spread late last year that Open Books was closing its Barrancas Street location, first opened in 2007, many were worried that the store wouldn’t find a new home. Luckily the Long Hollow Neighborhood Association heard about Open Books and thought they would be a great tenant for their community center on Guillemard Street.
Long Hollow is the low-lying neighborhood wedged between North Hill and the railroad tracks — the Cervantes Street overpass goes right over it — that has seen several revitalization projects in the last decade, ranging from a new park and sculpture garden to urban infill housing for young professionals. A corner bookstore was exactly the kind of presence the neighborhood association wanted. The Pensacola City Council approved the community center sublease in December (at the infamous meeting), and the rest is history.
“We plan to have various community events here, like poetry readings, musical events, film screenings, and various cultural events like that,” said Ardis. At the re-opening celebration this past Saturday, there were readings by poets Jamey Jones and Joel Dailey, an open mic segment, and plenty of musical performances (including a great folk rendition of Tom Waits’ “Jockey Full of Bourbon”).
Another new tenant of the Long Hollow Community Center is the Emerald Coast Community of Makers, a group of hobbyists, hackers and tinkers who come together to collaborate on projects in the shared “Makerspace.” They added to the Open Books festivities Saturday with demonstrations of 3D printers, robots, and other gadgets.
Open Books is open daily from noon to 5pm at 1040 North Guillemard Street.