Many used bookstores end up in, let us say, “interesting” buildings that present a challenge when it comes to layout. They have lots of character… and floors that are often a bit off level, walls that don’t quite meet at 90 degrees, and other interesting issues. Brand new buildings can have these issues too, but the sort of converted spaces that bookstores end up in often have multiple issues.
We recently decided to relocate some bookcases in the store and that was an adventure. It turned out we couldn’t put the bookcase where we wanted because the slight slope to the floor meant the bookcase was too tall at one end. Oops. It was off by a 1/4 inch. We also moved the front counter at the same time. That involved moving it around multiple times and installing it slightly off square to make it fit in an octagonal bay.
It doesn’t seem to matter how well you measure, you always have to wiggle fixtures around a bit to get them to set just right. Even if you do get them in the “right” spot, you may end up moving them again shortly thereafter as customers interact with them in a way you didn’t intend, or something else crops up. We moved another bookcase when we moved the desk and it seems to now be casting a shadow in the mystery section. Fortunately we were planning on replacing that light fixture anyway, so moving it over 6″ won’t be a big deal…
But nothing has beaten the very first remodeling job we did at the store for sheer craziness. It looked like it would be such a simple project…
This was a terrible layout, but it came this way when I bought the business. Not only was it narrow, it’s a dead end! Once upon a time, this was a hallway. Here is my mother unloading the bookcases before we moved them. (Thanks Mom!)
The reason for moving the case was because there was a door behind it! It should be a simple matter to move the bookcases on both sides and open the door.
On the other side of the door, there was another bookcase. It should be simple to empty and remove the case.
Wait, wasn’t there supposed to be a DOOR there? HAHAHAHA! Simple remodeling project… famous last words…
After a call to the landlord, we got a keyhole saw and cut a hole in the paneling only to find the door had no knob and was nailed into the doorframe.
Haven’t I read this horror novel? If not, it’s a great setup. The only way this set up could get better is if I was an occult bookstore. “During a remodeling project, the main characters find a boarded over door in the wall. The doorknob had been removed and the door is nailed into the frame, but they open it anyway unleashing…”
Mostly unleashing a lot of dust. We ended up taking the half rotten door out with a sledgehammer.
Did I mention the store is across from the Masonic temple? And we’re in New England?
If it was a horror movie everyone would be screaming at the screen right now going “NO, DON’T OPEN THE DOOR!!!”
Lovecraft would have loved this plot. So would Stephen King.
This is what it looks like today (after a second remodeling job to make it work a little better). The door frame was painted a cheery blood fire engine red afterward to make the Elder Gods welcome make sure people didn’t bump into the door frame while turning the corner.
Remodeling when you’re in a building that’s more than a century old never goes exactly as planned. The sad part? There’s ANOTHER boarded over door and a boarded over fireplace in the middle of the space! I still have more opportunities to have remodeling go horribly wrong!
I really do love my location most of the time. It has great character and fits well with the store. It makes it look like the maze of books that people expect from a used bookstore. It sure doesn’t feel like a commercial bookstore with a standardized floor plan. They’re constantly surprised by what’s around the next corner and delighted by discovering “hidden” treasures in the stacks. It’s a little adventure to find out what treasures lurk around the next corner. But when it comes time to remodel, I sometimes long for a level concrete slab for a floor and an empty warehouselike interior.