Mikaylah Bowman and Travis Kent aren't ones to take bad news lying down. Rather, they're an impressively industrious pair.
Upon news of Domy's December closure (the beloved off-kilter bookstore on the East Side), the then-employees suddenly facing a serious choice took a leap of faith and took over the shop's lease. On Thursday, after a few fast and furious weeks of remodeling and restructuring, they will reopen the space as Farewell Books.
The name Farewell is no accident; it's a bittersweet acknowledgment of printed material's steady decline, as well as an homage to Domy and its legacy, which they hope to continue.
"I think it's a really tender name — and also a little humorous," says Bowman. "We all know that printed matter might be 'going out,' but we still believe that it's important and that there are ways for it to endure. I know that Travis and I aren't the only ones who share this sentiment."
"I think it's a really tender name — and also a little humorous." - Mikaylah Bowman
In a way, Farewell picks up where Domy left off. In order to survive, Kent explains that he and Bowman condensed the space inside in order to bring down the rent, and with that consolidation came a fine-tuning of the bookstore's vision, though still heavy in fiction and poetry. Literary presses you might recognize include Semiotexte, Feral House, City Lights, J&L, NoBrow, Fantagraphics, Feminist Press and New Directions.
"We've zeroed in on the kinds of books we loved most from the Domy days — books we can personally stand behind," says Kent. "We'll also be splitting the shop between carrying new and used books… And introducing an online shop will help us reach out to folks outside of Austin and make it possible for us to continue to stock some harder to sell smaller press books that tend to go out of print quickly."
Though Farewell's merchandise might be similar to its predecessor's, the interior of the shop is radically different. Adam Young of Old Crow orchestrated a warm buildout featuring floor to ceiling shelving made from reclaimed wood sourced from the devastated Texas wildfires of the past few years. "I feel like I'm on an old ship on the shop," Bowman laughs.
In line with the currently popular "collective" mentality (see most recent retail outpost to follow the same model, Rosewood), three other small business will assume space within the shop: Las Cruxes vintage, Dress Smart Alterations and Flat Track Coffee. Also familiar will be the sense of community Farewell intends to create.
"There's no money in opening a bookshop — you do it for something else." - Travis Kent
"Our aim is to create an inviting, open atmosphere — one where you want to stay and look at beautiful books, soak in some new words and see some life-affirming art. I want people to feel inspired here," explains Bowman. "I want them to find new things at Farewell that will guide their thoughts in new and interesting ways or to read things that will help them feel a part of something."
In order to turn the dream of Farewell into a reality, Bowman and Kent have personally taken on second and third jobs. They're so committed to continuing the spirit of community and intellectual expansion that they say they've gone greatly in debt.
"There's no money in opening a bookshop," deadpans Kent. "You do it for something else."
They'll kick off a Kickstarter campaign in conjunction with the February 14 opening and hope that Austin will show up — both literally and financially — in support of Farewell's mission.
As Kent says, "Austin needs a space for traveling, lesser known writers, filmmakers and artists to share their work, as well as a trusted, respected and intimate space for folks in the Austin community to share with one another."
Farewell Books hosts its opening party Thursday, February 14 from 6 - 9 p.m. at 913 East Cesar Chavez.