Since its founding 18 years ago, The Ivy Bookshop, located at 6080 Falls Rd., has been like a second home to Baltimore’s book lovers. Now, The Ivy is preparing to move to its second home.
But no worries, The Ivy’s new location is just a few blocks away from its old one.
“I wasn’t looking for a new space,” says Emma Snyder, a Baltimore native who has been a co-owner of The Ivy since 2017 and became the store’s sole owner last year. “But I knew that owning [instead of renting] a space can be transformative for a small business, and the concept was in the back of my mind.
“When I stumbled upon this historic property that is so special and has such spectacular grounds, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she says. “People are surprised when they walk in. The space just opens up around you. It’s so light and airy.”
The fact that the new space at 5928 Falls Rd. is so close to the current space “was its own extraordinary thing,” says Snyder, former executive director of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation in Washington, D.C. “People’s routes to the store won’t change significantly.”
Snyder, 40, also owns Bird in Hand, a bookstore/café in Charles Village. Though The Ivy won’t be a café, the new location will sell cold beverages, coffee drinks and pastries.
Built in the late 19th century, the property’s main building was used as a private residence for decades. In the 1970s, it was purchased by the late Rev. Achariya Peter, also known as Swami Shankarananda, who founded a yogic spiritual community called the Divine Life Church Spiritual Community and Meditation Center on the grounds.
Snyder, who writes Jmore’s monthly Book Smarts column, says the first level of the store is the same size as The Ivy’s current site, but she plans to use the upstairs as a meeting area and classroom once it is pandemic-safe to conduct indoor gatherings.
“We have reimagined the space as a cultural center anchored by a bookstore,” she says.
The property sits on almost three acres of land and includes a one-acre lawn as well as gardens, pathways and a covered patio.
“We see the outdoor grounds as a great partnering opportunity that benefits the community. It’s a beautiful, preserved piece of nature in the city,” says Snyder.
Prior to the pandemic, The Ivy held approximately 150 author speaking events annually. Since then, the store has presented gatherings via Zoom. Snyder plans to continue the book talks and also to maintain the many partnerships that she and previous owners Ed and Ann Berlin established in recent years.
The property’s outdoor space presents opportunities for The Ivy to offer new types of programming particularly beneficial in the COVID-19 era.
“We held a number of garden days in July, and even though it was really hot, they were lovely days and introduced people to the property,” says Snyder. “We’ve begun planning outdoor painting classes and nature-based programs for children, readings, author talks and dinners in the gardens.”
Snyder has even created self-directed literary scavenger hunts in the store’s gardens to engage shoppers in a safe, socially distanced way.
She says she hopes to open the new location on Sept. 26. “But I’ve learned that construction takes as long as construction takes!” Snyder says. “Our first focus is to begin to ramp up operations again. We’ll start with curbside pickup followed by private browsing sessions.”
Snyder says there will soon be an online tool on The Ivy’s website that will enable customers to schedule half-hour sessions in the store. A few weeks after that, she says she hopes to open the store to several customers at a time.
“We really want to encourage people to get to know the space by browsing the sections and walking through the gardens,” Snyder says. “We want to use it in a community-oriented way, and we want them to feel a sense of ownership.”
For information about The Ivy Bookshop, visit theivybookshop.com.
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