Years after the naysayers told us bricks and mortar bookstores were dead – particularly niche, specialty bookstores – Katie Barringer returned to her Atlanta roots to brazenly launch COVER, one of the loveliest of lovely bookstores in the South, quite possibly in the whole country. Katie took time out of her busy day as shopkeeper and proprietor to talk with South x Southeast. -editor
Nancy McCrary: Sixteen years into a new century and the technological, social, and economic changes are legion. A big part of those changes was the temporary demise of bricks and mortar art galleries and bookstores (as well as print magazines) – social and cultural touchtones that seemed doomed to become relics of our past. However, as of late it seems we have found a way for the physical world and the online world to collaborate and even get along with one another. What gave you the faith to open a bricks and mortar bookstore during this time, and what economic and social signs did you base your decision upon?
Katie Barringer: As much as I’d like to say that my decision to open a brick and mortar bookstore at such a contradictory time was driven by a sudden sense of purpose or faith, it really was just an extension of a life-long inclination towards things illogical and indulgent. While books have always been a necessary part of my life, my insistence on their constant company has often never made much practical sense. Whether it was splurging on an art book with only $50 in the bank or travelling with an extra suitcase of reading material, I have always chosen books over convenience and it has always made perfect sense to me. However, when it came to opening Cover, I couldn’t exactly put that in a business plan. So, luckily, when I began my research, all of the economic and social signs were pointing in the right direction. Independent bookstores were thriving, hard-copy sales were on the upswing, and the cultures around the types of books I wanted to carry were more influential than ever. That was all I needed to read to decide to really go for it.
NM: I talk to many people in my line of work, and I’m both amused and amazed by the number of people who want to introduce me to COVER. I haven’t heard this enthusiasm about a store of any kind, much less a bookstore, in a long time! What sets COVER apart? When people think of wanting/needing to buy a book what is it about COVER that makes their mind wander there first?
KB: Wow—I love hearing that! I think that for a long time, we Atlantans were used to having to look elsewhere for certain cultural perks. Whether it was a good slice of pizza or a good piece of art, to access it, we had to hop on a plane. But with our incredible restaurant scene and the many dynamic arts organizations that seem to be popping up every month, Atlantans don’t have to rely on that way of thinking. We don’t have to leave Atlanta to enjoy the culture we crave. From what I hear a lot of people say when they visit Cover, certain books and magazines are examples of those things that people haven’t been expecting to find in this city. And, what’s fortunate is that many of these people are already in the mindset of supporting local business. So, I think the enthusiasm you mention is because people can accomplish two things at once when they come to Cover: get inspired with some culturally relevant stuff and support your local economy.
NM: Bookstores are usually thought of as quiet, demure places with stacks, and bookish women behind worn wooden counters. But you’re incorporating dinner parties, openings, and other effusive and entertaining events into COVER. The space itself is redefining the idea of the bookstore. Can you tell us about some of your upcoming events?
KB: I don’t think that bookstores should be centered exclusively on the books. I think that limits their appeal. They should be about the people and culture that are connected to the books. Cover specializes in the areas of food, wine, art, design and travel. All of these subjects often involve pretty interesting and entertaining people, so it seemed natural to have events that involve them. Some upcoming events include a Bastille Day party with Jarry Magazine and Chef Steven Satterfield, a formal dinner based on the upcoming rerelease of Dali’s Surrealist Cookbook, a book launch with an iconic music photographer (yet to be announced) and seasonal cocktail events with our friends at Ticonderoga Club. Check our website for specific dates and times. (www.cover-books.com)
NM: For those unlucky souls who’ve not yet visited COVER, tell us about your books. Also, are indie magazines becoming collector items? Are all of your books current, or do you handle first editions, rare, and/or antique books? Do you have an online or phone ordering system for those of us not fortunate to live close by?
KB: Our selection mostly consists of non-fiction, visual books with an emphasis on art and architecture, food and beverage, photography, design and travel. There’s a slight bias towards smaller-production, lesser-known titles, but still plenty of recognizable classics for those not seeking the esoteric. The magazine selection reflects a similar theme with many being internationally produced. 95% of what we sell is new but since I can’t help myself from acquiring them, there will always be a small section of rare or vintage books available for purchase. We are always happy to help customers with special requests, so if you can’t make it into the store, feel free to call or email us and we’ll see what we can do. Online ordering will also be available mid-July!
NM: And we want to know about you. What brought you and COVER together? Tell us about the process.
KB: The specific concept of “Cover” was born in 2008 when photographer Peter Bahouth asked me to sit for a portrait in a setting that best reflected my identity. I chose to be surrounded by my books and the resulting image was given the title “Cover.” While I had always collected books, I believe this photograph is what gave that lifelong interest the vision and purpose to become something far more significant.
And now for a few of Katie’s Picks…
Meg Griffiths: Casa de Fruta y Pan
Talent, all around! The good folks at Aint-Bad hit a home run with this book, which is one of the first three monographs they’ve published to date. Saturated images of intimate domestic scenes within contemporary Cuba that are just fantastic.-Katie
Published by Aint-Bad Editions
Saints of Old Florida by Melissa Farrell, Christina McDermott, and Emily Raffield
Three incredible women conceptualized and published this little bit of soul themselves. Inspired by the unique culture of the historic Florida panhandle, the book they created is as authentic and beautiful as the place it honors. -Katie
9 x 11in
A beautiful new monograph celebrating an iconic and pioneering photographer. Exquisite light, perfect silhouettes, beautiful clothes and exotic locations…what else do you need in fashion photography? -Katie
8.25 x 11.25 in.
Published by Aperture
Joel Meyerowitz: Morandi’s Objects
I don’t remember ever being moved by an image of a simple porcelain vase before. The subtle object studies that make up this series are so rich in texture and grace that they’re almost too gorgeous to handle at once. Perfect for a beauty-obsessed masochist. -Katie
10 x 12.75 in
Published by Damiani
Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs
Elaborate patterns, powerful females, 1970’s fashion and loads of art historical references….all wrapped up in phenomenal photo-collages. I can’t get enough. -Katie
10 X 13 in.
Published by Aperture