It started with a Facebook post.

An independent bookstore owner in Dallas posted an announcement on Facebook seeking a business partner to run his bookstore, and a local newspaper reporter shared it on his Facebook feed. A marketing consultant sat at her kitchen counter with a glass of wine in hand after a particularly bad day at work. She scrolled down her Facebook feed and stumbled upon the post from the newspaper reporter, Robert Wilonsky of The Dallas Morning News. Motivated by the rough work day, the marketing consultant, Anne Hollander, shared Wilonsky’s post about the business opportunity at Deep Vellum Books in Deep Ellum.

“I love books, I love reading, I love business, I love being able to solve problems, and it seems like this is that perfect match of things, so I shared it out,” Hollander says.

Less than one minute after she shared the post, a man whom Hollander dated the year before, and whom she did not realize was still a Facebook friend, messaged her. He encouraged her to pursue the opportunity and put her in touch with the bookstore’s owner and the originator of the Facebook post, Will Evans. By the time Evans and Hollander met at Drugstore Cowboy later that week, Hollander had talked herself out of running the bookstore. By the time she left the meeting, she had agreed to run Deep Vellum.

“We were able to understand the vibe that we both had, and then we articulated the same vision to each other,” Hollander says.

Sample of the store’s selection (Photo by Chloe Pope-Levison)

Six months after Hollander took over the day-to-day operations of Deep Vellum Books, the bookstore went from selling 30 books a month to selling 1,200 books a month. Furthermore, Deep Vellum now curates the book selection at Serj Books and Local Food, which displays 250 books in their downtown bookstore and coffee shop. This summer Serj Books will open a second location where it will showcase between 1,200 and 1,500 Deep Vellum books.

Hollander also shaped Deep Vellum into a locus for the Dallas poetry scene, and the bookstore hosts seven local poetry groups throughout the month, including Dallas Slam Poetry, Pandora’s Box , and a group new to the Dallas poetry scene, Dark Moon Poetry.

“I love Dark Moon Poetry that’s hosted by Fatima-Ayan Malika Hirsi,” Hollander says. “It’s a women and female identifying poetry group, but she brings in three or four headliners once a month to come up and perform.”

Hollander’s goal is to harness the power of social media and the Internet to connect different literary communities in Dallas into a single calendar, powered by Do214. Do214 is a website that showcases events in the Dallas area. Do214 employees provided Hollander with a platform on which to create a “#LiteraryDallas” calendar, and the website will integrate that calendar into the overall Do214 website. This way, even if one is not purposefully searching for literary events in Dallas, the events will be showcased regardless.

One year ago, Hollander sat at her kitchen counter with a glass of wine reading a Facebook post about a Deep Ellum bookstore. Today, she runs that bookstore and uses her position to shape the Dallas literary community into one that rivals Seattle and Portland. No small feat, admittedly, but after achieving demonstrable success in one year, the question remains – what can’t Hollander do?


Dallas’ Newest Bookstore and Coffee Shop

When Anne Holcomb moved to Dallas after working in theater in Argentina for three years, she felt like she was missing something. In Argentina, the theaters and book publishers were on the same street, so the bookstores became a haven for an expatriate whose Spanish was admittedly “okay, but not great.”

Holcomb intended to teach in Dallas, but soon after her return she met John Walsh in a meditation class. The two started a cookie company, and eventually opened Serj Books and Local Food, Dallas’ newest bookstore and coffee shop.

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Walsh found the downtown location for Serj Books with the help of a friend who had offices across the street, and the bookstore and coffee shop opened to the public in fall 2014. The charm surrounding the coffee shop was immediately palpable.

“There are lots of magical little stories about this place that don’t make sense, like old college roommates coming in at the same time,” Holcomb said. “Little connections people make here that you witness that are so strange, but touching.”

That same spirit of human connection and touch emanates from the books lining the wood- paneled walls of the shop.

“Our books defy categorization,” Walsh said. “That’s the point. It’s: just because. Because these are great books. Because it means something for a person to pick up a book, skim through it, read the first and last page and the front and back cover and then take it home – or back to the office to share. Because it means something to connect a person with a book that can confirm or challenge a thought or an idea.”

Serj serves Big D BBQ (Photo by Chloe Pope-Levison)

One might initially visit Serj for the books and atmosphere, but they will find themselves coming back again and again for the food and coffee, all of which is fresh and locally sourced.

Serj partners with Big D Barbecue, a third-generation family-owned barbecue joint in Mansfield that makes renowned organic barbecue sauce. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the menu is made on toasted cinnamon toast with JJ&B Jelly. The award-winning jam of JJ&B Jelly is made by a local corporate recruiter.

The bookstore’s coffee partner is Dallas-based Noble Coyote Coffee Roasters, and Serj provides myriad drinks with which to wash down the fresh sandwiches.

“Our barista Quinton is really inventive,” Holcomb said. “We’ve started a lot of specialty drinks, because we’re trying to keep it fresh and give people something new when they come in the door.”

Walsh and Holcomb are bringing that same level of care and personal attention to their second location, which is opening soon in the Mosaic building.

“Come, smell some cookies, have some ice cream, relax for a minute, then go about your day,” Holcomb said.



“Blade Runner” Meets “Westworld”

What do you get when a book publisher and a film producer start a company?

This isn’t a joke, folks. Will Evans, founder of Deep Vellum Publishing, and Dallas Sonnier, producer of the critically-acclaimed film Bone Tomahawk, teamed up last year to found Cinestate, an entertainment company in Dallas that combines book publishing, film production, and audio production.

Memorabilia from “Bone Tomahawk” (Photo by Chloe Pope-Levison)

The objective of the company is simple, but brilliant.

“The idea is that we will sign and publish books, but when we sign them we get the rights to the audio and the film adaptations as well,” Evans said. “We publish the book and we’ll do an audiobook, then we’ll turn it into a movie to continue to grow the audience.”

Cinestate’s unique business model has so far proved successful. The company already shot one movie that comes out this fall – Brawl in Cellblock 99, starring Vince Vaughn. Brawl in Cellblock 99 was written and directed by S. Craig Zahler, the same man who wrote and directed Bone Tomahawk. Sonnier was Zahler’s manager in Los Angeles, and the two teamed up to create Bone Tomahawk.

“Craig writes a lot and he’s got insane talent,” Evans said. “His star is just rising in the world as a writer, both for screen and books.”

Zahler wrote the script for two of Cinestate’s upcoming films – Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (a reboot of Full Moon’s 1989 Puppet Master) and Dragged Across Concrete. Zahler will also direct the latter film, which stars Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn.

Dragged Across Concrete is a very gritty, dark cop drama and that’s what Craig specializes in is gritty, dark stuff,” Evans said.

If you’re interested in becoming the next Craig Zahler, Cinestate accepts blind submissions through email at submissions@cinestate.com. However, aspiring screen writers and authors need to pitch the story quickly and in an intriguing manner. Authors also need to fit Cinestate’s genre, which Evans describes as “Blade Runner meets Westworld.”

“We’re looking for genre-based writing, so sci-fi, thriller, horror, dark fantasy, action, adventure, and true crime dark mysteries,” Evans said. “We want a smart story very well told with a very unique hook. We want something that’s never been done before.”

As Cinestate grows and expands, Evans wants to add more women writers and writers of color to the Cinestate portfolio.

“We are building something that is genre-based here, but it is still very important to us to have diverse voices,” Evans said. “Some of the best writers are neglected by others, because sexism and racism are real things. If we can look for those stories and seek them out aggressively, hopefully we can make connections between those authors and audiences that are just starving for amazing stories like that.”

Look for Brawl in Cellblock 99 coming out this fall, and in the meantime, Bone Tomahawk is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.


Books and Booze

Books and booze.

The pairing that sparked the works of Hemingway and Fitzgerald also inspired two Spanish civil engineers, Paco Vique and Javier Garcia del Moral, to open a venue that facilitates that intoxicating cocktail of words and spirits.

Menu (Photo by Chloe Pope-Levison)

Menu (Photo by Chloe Pope-Levison)

The Wild Detectives, a bar and independent bookstore in Bishop Arts, is designed as a place for  people to talk about literature, culture, and life – all with a Spanish gin and tonic in hand (the bar’s most popular drink). The name of the business is loosely based on the book, “Los detectives salvajes,” by Robert Bolaño, which means “The Savage Detectives.” Andrés de la Casa-Huertas, brand communicator at The Wild Detectives, said that the translation was not optimal, so Garcia del Moral and Vicque added their own spin on it.

The Wild Detectives Twitter Feed“The whole idea of the wild detectives is that these people are inspectors of culture and experiences, so it made sense to us to use a similar name,” de la Casa-Huertas said.

The book selection at The Wild Detectives is a carefully curated combination of popular industry titles, local authors, and books from independent publishers. Yet as more independent bookstores open throughout Dallas, such as Deep Vellum and Interabang Books, patrons of The Wild Detectives will see an evolution in the books on display at the bar.

Andres' Top Picks“Because before we were the only independent bookstore, we were balancing curation with latest releases,” de la Casa-Huertas said. “Now that there are new bookstores in Dallas, we will curate every book and change the way we display them, pushing authors we like, and showing a selection of their best books. We’re pushing toward the bookstore that we had in mind at the beginning.”

The Wild Detectives hosts numerous events monthly, including book presentations, book clubs, and concerts. Lauren Smart, the former arts and culture editor of the Dallas Observer, partnered with the bookstore to put on Women Galore, a one-month festival celebrating women in literature and the arts. Don’t fret if you missed it last year – Smart and The Wild Detectives are teaming up to do the festival again in May.

If May is too many months away, The Wild Detectives will celebrate its third anniversary with a day-long festival on March 25, 2017. Local bands will perform on the back patio, and the line-up
features a DJ from Madrid.

In the meantime, The Wild Detectives provides a place for patrons to indulge their literary (and boozy) passions and meet others with similar inclinations.

“We like to think the bar allows people to enjoy like hanging out and have conversations around literature or culture,” de la Casa-Huertas said. “It’s a nice spot for people to open up and talk.

The Rarest Bookstore in Dallas

For the steadfast bookworm, there is no place like Rosedale Rare Books at which to indulge their literary fantasies. Rosedale Rare Books, adjacent to Snider Plaza, is the last storefront antiquarian bookstore in Dallas.

Rosedale Rare Books (Photo by Chloe Pope-Levison)

Rosedale Rare Books (Photo by Chloe Pope-Levison)

That Rosedale is still in business is a testament to the passion and expertise of its founder, Wrenda Coughran. Coughran received a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from Southern Methodist University, but it wasn’t in the classroom that she discovered her passion for antiquarian books.

“About 25 years ago I had a friend visiting me and she wanted to go to a bookstore,” Coughran said. “We wandered into a bookstore called The History Merchant down on Routh Street and it was just one of the most special places I’ve ever been in.”

Coughran managed The History Merchant (now closed) until the owner retired. Ten years ago, she opened Rosedale with her business partner, Forrest Jackson, in the unlikeliest of places – Jackson’s father’s gun shop. In a tiny room directly off the gun shop, the walls are lined with books that range in topic from American history and Shakespeare to natural history, literature, and poetry.

Aesop's Fables, found at Rosedale Rare Books (Photo by Chloe Pope-Levison)

Aesop’s Fables, found at Rosedale Rare Books (Photo by Chloe Pope-Levison)

The oldest book in the store is a 1494 edition of the sermons of St. Augustine. Other notable books include a vellum-bound copy of “Aesop’s Fables,” which was one of only 525 copies signed by the illustrator, and “Roughing It” by Mark Twain signed by Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain).

Coughran estimates there are between 1,000 and 2,000 books in the store. That is nothing compared to her personal library.

Wrenda's Top Book Picks

“Let’s just say years ago I stopped counting at 10,000 books,” Coughran said. “I’ve cut back, but I kept going.”

When asked which book was her favorite, Coughran laughed.

“I’m going to hurt some little book’s poor feelings,” Coughran said. “I think of them all as close friends.”

She eventually decided on an edition of “Pride and Prejudice,” the first with the Hugh Thomson illustrations, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and “The Forgotten Beasts of Eld,” by Patricia McKillip.

Rosedale Rare Books is open Wednesday through Saturday 10:30am to 5:00pm.