New Busboys and Poets Bookstore Comes to Hyattsville Arts District
Bookstore manager Rodrigo Rioja has been busy ordering books and stacking them on the bookshelves with hopes that the store can officially open this weekend.
While waiters at the Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville’s Arts District are busy serving food to customers in the bustling restaurant, Rodrigo Rioja quietly prepares a space, meticulously filling rows of shelves with hundreds of books as he prepares to open the restaurant’s bookstore.
Bookstore manager Rioja hopes to have all the bookshelves filled by the end of the week so the store can be fully operational by this weekend. But some customers—eager to get their hands on the latest books—have already bought books. Rioja has already sold nearly a hundred books in the past two weeks, while he sets up the shop.
“Basically, we don’t want to say no to a customer,” he said. “So if you want to get it now, you can get it now.”
Before the restaurant announced the opening of their new bookstore, local residents had few options available to them. When Becky Dukes, 77, who has been a Hyattsville resident for the past 50 years, wanted to buy a book, she used to go to the independent bookstore Vertigo Books in College Park before it closed in 2009. She and her husband then relied on mainstream retailers like Barnes and Noble and Borders, which also required them to drive into a neighboring city.
“To have a bookstore in this location is a great thing for Hyattsville...” Dukes said. “This is just the beginning, but I think it will be wonderful to have here because I love the [restaurant] and we’re lucky to have it.”
According to Rioja, who used to be the manager for the Barnes and Nobles at Union Station, an independent bookstore offers patrons as greater experience.
“At an independent bookstore, the selection is actually a lot better because the manager is the buyer,” he said. “They really take the time finding the right books to fill the selection, to fill the store.”
In contrast, the bigger bookstores will do bulk orders from publishers and may not necessarily know what they are carrying.
“In our type of store, every inch (of the shelves) counts, he added. “We make sure that with every single book, it’s a book that we feel fits our spirit.”
Events and Marketing Manager Pamela Pinnock said that the bookstore will be a more “personalized shopping” experience in which customers will have the opportunity to speak with a seller who knows all the titles on hand, as well as the organization of the books.
For this particular branch of Busboys and Poets, Rioja has chosen titles that will match to what he describes as a cultural, artistic and progressive neighborhood. Among the selection will be books about politics, LGBT, African American and Hispanic studies, as well as books by local authors from the DC area.
“We try to be more selective [by carrying] titles that the community can embrace,” he said, adding that these are not the books that are typically found in mainstream retail stores.
With titles like Grace for President, a story about a young African American girl running for office, Rioja has catered his selection of children’s literature to minority families. Not only will these books be entertaining, but they will also be “inclusive in nature” and will teach kids about the importance of getting along with people of different background and ethnicities.
“The bookstore is a wonderful destination,” Pinnock said, adding that Hyattsville is an ideal location because of its abundance of families, the proximity to the University of Maryland and the learning environment.