- Photo by Dana Sklack
- Jodi Morrison is turning a closed Borders into a temporary shop for local and independent books.
As big-box bookstores continue to leave the city, one local woman is working to give Pittsburghers a new option -- albeit a temporary one -- for buying their books.
In mid-April, the Borders bookstore in East Liberty closed, leaving consumers with one less place to buy books. That's where Jodi Morrison, 33, of Braddock, comes in.
On May 7, she plans to open Fleeting Pages, a four-week-long "pop-up" bookstore that stocks works by local writers and books from small, independent publishers across the country instead of mainstream bestsellers.
Morrison rented the former 24,000-square-foot Borders space for the project. In addition to selling books, Fleeting Pages will also host nightly events including writing and publishing workshops; screenings of documentaries about small publishers and the art of writing; and readings by local literature groups.
"Some people call it activism, other people are calling it social commentary," Morrison says. "For me, I just thought it would be fun."
The idea for a pop-up bookstore came to Morrison when the Murray Avenue Barnes and Noble closed its Squirrel Hill storefront a year and a half ago. Her vision was to take back the large space vacated by the chain and start selling locally-produced books again, but it wasn't the right time in her life to embark on such a large project.
Now armed with a plan and money from her own bank account, Morrison rented the space left behind by Borders to start her dream. Morrison says the idea for Fleeting Pages has been with her a long time and for a while she was fine with it just being an idea. But eventually, she says, the idea "pushes you so hard that it becomes uncomfortable to not do anything. I knew I had to try."
According to Morrison, the response has been overwhelming. She began emailing people she knew, and then those people helped to spread the word.
"Most of what I had been getting in the beginning were [literary] presses that were very interested but [wondered], 'Why Pittsburgh?'" she says.
Her plan, she explains, is to show off the city's strong literary community.
"Pittsburgh really has the right attitude," says Laura Davis, founder and editor of Pittsburgh-based Weave magazine, which will sponsor weekly readings, as well as workshops on poetry, how to get published and flash fiction. "Everybody here wants to pitch in and help."
Pop-up businesses are the latest fad in marketing. They are usually used to promote a particular brand or company. Target and Toys R Us have begun to use this model in recent years. Locally, the pop-up business has been embraced by the arts community by turning empty Downtown storefronts into temporary art galleries. In Lawrenceville, the annual Art All Night takes place in a different location each year.
"I don't know if this looks like the average pop-up venture," says Paige Beal, an associate professor of the School of Business at Point Park University. Unlike typical pop-up businesses, Fleeting Pages isn't about marketing a brand, she says. Instead it is about exposing the community to books they wouldn't otherwise see. "I think it's a great use of space that isn't otherwise used."
Morrison believes the project will be a success just by opening the doors. And if patrons like what she's offering and want to see subsequent store openings, the best advice she can offer is stop in and "buy the books."
She adds: "There is something about art [and] books in the tangible format that will always matter to me."