Open the door and the smell of books fills through the air with the unmistakable scent of ink on newly bound pages. Shelves cover every spare inch of the walls and books overflow onto the floor and up the stairs. Books are packed so tightly into the store, it seems as though they could pour out of the upstairs windows. French pop plays from the speakers overhead. In the aftermath of the closing of Barnes & Noble, a local independent bookstore lives on.
A small bookstore on Pennsylvania Avenue, Bridge Street Books, has been a Georgetown staple since its founding in 1980. In fact, according to manager Rod Smith, some people claim to stay at the nearby Four Seasons Hotel in order to simply have better access to the shop.
The question remains, if Bridge Street Books has a large enough client base to outlast Barnes & Noble, how is it that so few Georgetown students have set foot inside this eclectic haunt?
Maybe it is the bookshop’s unassuming air. Nestled between an abandoned storefront and a Mediterranean restaurant, Bridge Street Books is easy to miss. Without the book-filled tables that stand in front of the shop, one might walk right past the brick building without ever noticing it.
The few Hoyas who do stop in are often sent by professors. For his Modern Poetry class, MarkMcMorris asks his students to buy their books at Bridge Street. “I think he sent me to Bridge Street Books because he valued an independent bookstore,” said Jenn Polloch (COL ’14), a student in Morris’ class. “I think today, especially with electronic books, they’re very much a dying breed. He though it was important for us to give them our business, not buy into the college textbook market.”
However, these tables are sure to catch a reader’s eye. With titles ranging from Einstein on Israel toBardisms: Shakespeare for Every Occasion, the display draws an eclectic crowd.
“We definitely have regulars from a great variety of stripes. Philosophy buffs, government workers, military people, foot traffic, ” Smith said.
Smith, an avant-garde poet, moved to Georgetown in 1987 and began working at Bridge Street Books shortly thereafter.
“Books are what I do in several directions,” he said, adding that many of the store’s employees are authors or writers in some capacity.
Bridge Street Books differs from many other bookstores in that customers directly influence the selection by requesting books for the store to purchase.
Smith explained, “We pay attention to backlists and what’s considered important in different fields rather than just what’s new.”
As if on cue, a deliveryman entered with the day’s book shipment, and Smith was drawn away.