They saved the book store’s iconic green carpet, but the forest tones no longer cover the entire floor. Instead, smaller strips of shag lay on top of polished wood.
That’s one example, CEO Kwame Spearman said, of the ways the Tattered Cover’s new owners are working to thread the business’ decades-old identity into a new vision.
“How do we take what made Tattered Cover so special and so iconic, both for Colorado and across the country, but also think about the future and what the role of an independent bookstore is in an independent community,” he said on Tuesday during a press preview of the new location at McGregor Square.
The new store replaces the 16th Street outpost that closed last year. Plans to move predated an announcement last year that Spearman’s investor group, Bended Page, would acquire the business, store manager Derek Holland said.
Tattered Cover has traded historic for brand-spankin’-new.
McGregor Square, a leviathan, multi-use development by Coors Field, opened during the pandemic on what once was a parking lot popular with Rockies tailgaters. Tattered Cover occupies two floors at McGregor’s base, next to a new hotel and around the corner from a courtyard lined with restaurants.
The company has held onto the hand-made, wooden bookshelves, but they’ve been pushed to the center of the space. As they designed the store, Holland said, they were keen not to block sunlight pouring in from their glass walls. Coors Field and downtown skyscrapers hang in the distance behind stacks of books. While it was a bit of a challenge to arrange everything just right, Holland said he loves the place’s aura.
“The poem that was in my head when I first came in here, there’s a line: ‘There’s a right of sunlight,'” he waxed. “That’s what it feels like.”
While the new store is smaller than their previous LoDo space, Spearman said it’s a better arrangement.
“What’s fundamentally different between this space and the Lower Downtown space is the lease,” he told us. “There’s much more of an understanding that we’re a bookstore.”
In particular, the Tattered Cover’s monthly rent is now a function of how much revenue they make each month, rather than a flat fee. It’s not an uncommon arrangement, but it’s resonant in a moment when many businesses with razor-thin profit margins and unforgiving landlords worried they’d be forced to close.
“The landlord’s taking some of the risk,” Spearman said. But it’s not for nothing: “In my mind it’s symbiotic. We have a cool customer base that’s going to come in and visit the store and then go and check out McGregor Square.”
He told us their sales did plummet during the pandemic. Though customers ordered online to support the business, nothing could replace the foot traffic they rely on. Spearman said that’s beginning to return, and he’s especially looking forward to massive crowd-draws like the 2021 Major League Baseball All Star Game next month, which he thinks will pull them out of their pandemic rut in a big way.
Spearman said he’s also thinking about other changes for the business. On one hand, they’re opening a new store in Westminster and a shop at Stanley Marketplace that’s focused on children’s books. On the other, Spearman said they’re thinking hard about whether to renew their lease at Colfax Avenue’s Bonfils-Lowenstein Theater, which expires in 2023.
Correction: This story originally contained incorrect information about the store’s size.