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Giving Back to the Community
Old Firehouse Books of Fort Collins Shares the Love
Before Old Firehouse Books was, well, Old Firehouse Books, it was a tiny used book store called the Book Rack. The business underwent a major evolution in 2009 when it settled in Fort Collins’s first firehouse, built in 1881. The move made them the largest independent bookstore in Northern Colorado, but the physical space was not the only thing that grew. They also expanded their wares to both new and used books, as well as gift products like journals and cards. Additionally, the building’s location in the heart of Fort Collins’s Old Town made tourists a major part of their customer base.
In her five years working at Old Firehouse, event coordinator Renee Becher has spoken with folks from places as far away as Ireland, Austria, and New Zealand, to name a few. She enjoys seeing how a love of literature can bring people from far off places together. “We love hearing visitors say how great our store is and seeing locals deliberately bring their visitors in to see us,” she remarked.
Although she affirms that the historic building is a draw for customers, she believes sharing the firehouse with other businesses makes Old Firehouse Books unique from other bookstores. Their interesting neighbors make for great collaborations. The booksellers consider the Leafsters (the tea shop employees next door) as their “extended co-worker family.” They have also collaborated with the Forge Publick House, a bar down the block, on many store events. “Books, tea, and beer all in one place,” Becher said. “It doesn’t get much better if you ask me.”
Old Firehouse specializes in Science Fiction and Fantasy, though one owner jokingly credits this to the fact that she keeps hiring nerds, “which is absolutely true,” Becher added. The store’s collection is far from one-sided, though. They offer a wealth of both literary and genre fiction, with particularly excellent Children’s and YA sections. Their non-fiction covers everything, from memoirs to science texts. Becher said, “A section I am hoping to bring more love to (and the pun is totally intended) is our Romance section.” As a “recent Romance convert,” she wants to help show people how expansive and rich the genre really is.
Becher keeps her hands full with a variety of events that make the shop lively. Old Firehouse regularly runs several book clubs and a writers’ workshop. They put on a lot of small events for local authors, but have also hosted book signings for big names like Neil Gaiman, Tamora Pierce, and Nick Offerman.
She makes an effort to organize a lot of kids events, such as story times, a Harry Potter birthday party, and an Alice in Wonderland themed tea party. In the spring, Old Firehouse Books becomes a regular destination for second grade field trips to learn about its historic building. Becher’s favorite story to tell the kids is a rumor that the firefighters hid a bobcat in their station basement, although she admitted, “your guess is as good as mine whether that’s true or not.” She is a big believer in giving back to the community, so it is no wonder the store is so active. “I think we have a certain responsibility to serve our community in any way we can,” she said. And what better way is there to bring people together than through an appreciation of history and literature? “Corporate stores might be bigger and have more books,” Becher noted, “but something I would almost guarantee is that when you walk into an indie bookstore, everyone who works there is going to love books.” As Old Firehouse Books and the Fort Collins community demonstrate, mutual love of literature is one powerful force.
You can find Old Firehouse Books on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or through their blog: https://oldfirehousebooksblog.wordpress.com/
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Olivia Schmitz was a summer 2018 intern at Independent Publisher andis currently a sophomore English major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, with a minor in Japanese. She also works as a marketing intern at the University of Nebraska Press during the school year. When she’s not writing, Olivia can probably be found reading Pride and Prejudice or watching Disney movies.