Park Hill Bookstore Celebrates A Half-Century Making Its Mark. A New Generation Ensures The Tradition Continues.
By Jack Farrar
For the GPHN
The Park Hill Community Bookstore has reached the ripe old age of 50 — a golden achievement, given the precarious state of independent bookstores and the multitude of electronic media devices competing with print literature.
The shop obtained its birth certificate from the State of Colorado on May 6, 1971. Originally known as the Park Hill Cooperative Bookstore, it is the oldest nonprofit bookstore in metro Denver, and perhaps the only one managed completely by volunteers. It is the oldest continuously operated merchant in the historic business district at 23rd and Dexter.
Various activities are planned to recognize the bookstore’s 50th, including BookStory, an effort to collect stories, anecdotes and poems about the store. Some will be published in a future issue of the Greater Park Hill News, and displayed permanently in an album at the store. To submit your BookStory, mail it to 4620 E. 23rd Ave., Denver CO 80207, drop it off at the store, or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Drop by the store in May and enter our drawing for a $50 gift certificate for the store.
Other anniversary activities and special sales will be announced.
Since its founding, the bookstore has not only sold tens of thousands of books, it has donated thousands to schools, shelters, churches, group homes, schools, correctional institutions and other community organizations and charities. It has also supported literacy by donating money to school libraries and provided retail work experience to young people through programs like the DPS Alternative Cooperative Education Program. The store has been supportive of Greater Park Hill Community, Inc., including promoting and selling tickets to annual garden and home tours.
More than 40 volunteers, up front and behind the scenes, tend to the bookstore’s business. More than 500 members support the Bookstore with patronage, used book donations, and ideas about store improvements.
Many of the newest members and volunteers are young families, a sure sign that print literature is not an endangered culture.
“We’re very encouraged with the involvement of young people at the store, as members and volunteers, and we’ve done some things to broaden our audience a little, like developing a great web site and expanding our presence on social media like Facebook and Instagram,” says Board President John Krause.
The store has an inventory of more than 20,000 books, mostly used, in an eclectic range of genres, and features a good selection of regional and local books.
The founders originally conceived it not only as a bookstore, but a gathering place to share ideas and creative talents. A women’s center was once “headquartered” in the basement. A pottery co-op was in the loft.
“We had no carpenters, electricians or plumbers in our group,” wrote the store’s first manager, Barbara Charnes, in a 1994 edition of Footnotes, the store newsletter, “so psychiatrists, lawyers and similarly unqualified neighbors wired, painted, built shelving and messed up the plumbing.”
A number of political celebrities have been members or customers of the store, including congresswomen Patricia Schroeder (who attended an author signing for her book Champion of the Great American Family in 1984) and Diana DeGette, governors Dick Lamm and John Hickenlooper, Mayor Wellington Webb and City Councilperson Happy Haynes. Joyce Meskis, longtime owner of The Tattered Cover (also celebrating its 50th birthday this year), has appeared.
The store has presented numerous fundraisers, with local authors Joanne Greenberg, Helen Thorpe, Dusty Saunders, Dick Kreck, John Fielder, Don Morreale and Robert Greer. The store has also hosted international folk dancing lessons by Schukr Basanow in the parking lot behind the store.
The store takes pride in its selection of local books, including the encyclopedic Park Hill Promise, by historian and gadfly Phil Goodstein, and The Park Hill Neighborhood, an Historic Denver publication by Tom Noel and James Hansen.
Sadly, many of the people who made the bookstore what it is are no longer with us. To name a few: Lynne Lake wrote hilarious reviews of romance novels for the store newsletter for many years. John Eberhart, a co-founder of the Kansas University Student Co-op, introduced the store to mysterious concepts like budgeting and computing, and for many years maintained the membership roster. Barbara Moe, journalist and children’s book author, managed the store’s sales of greeting cards from the Gathering Place. Toni Martinez stepped in to manage the store when it looked like it was close to insolvency. All will be missed.
The store is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. (Those hours may change soon per COVID-19 protocols.)
Individual annual memberships are $20, seniors and students $15, and families $25. In addition to a 15 percent discount on all purchases, members receive credits when they purchase the membership, and continue earning credits for books brought into the store. Volunteers receive a 20 percent discount on purchases. The phone number is 303-355-8508. The email address is email@example.com. The website address is parkhillbookstore.org. We’re also on Facebook and Instagram.
Charter Members included:
• Barbara Charnes
• Richard and Helen Francis
• Elizabeth (Buzzie) Gibson
• Sarah Obermeier
• Robert J. Page
• Mary Scharf
• Joyce Shaw
• Barbara Smith
• Don Roberts
• Sarah Tappan
Paid Managers have included:
• Barbara Charnes
• Nan Doha
• Judy Caldwell
• Lucy Horton
• Toni Martinez
• Bettina Basanow
• Mike Stickney
• Sandra Niemi
Current Bookstore Board of Directors include:
• John Krause – President
• Jackson Turnacliff – Vice President
• Polly Wirtz – Treasurer
• Jack and Pam Farrar – Co-Managers
• Joan Beam – Secretary
• Linda Baie – Volunteer Coordinator
See related essays:
A Bookstore Is A Matchmaker
News Flash (and other fun quirks)
Plenty of Steam