Since its 2018 rebirth, the Haunted Book Shop’s (109 Dauphin St.) essence has been connected to Mobile’s iconic Bienville Square just outside its door. The proximity lent a certain authenticity to the bibliophile’s haven, amplifying its charms.
Hurricane Sandy ravaged the square’s legendary oak trees last year, but the small park is still open. A tasteful renovation plan is in store with some colorful enhancements for the future.
Chalk up the bookstore for a new look as well. And a new locale. Current plans have the Haunted Book Shop opening at the northeast corner of Conti and Joachim in the autumn of 2021, a spot most recently occupied by Backflash Antiques.
Building owner Bill Appling has already earned a healthy reputation for cultural involvement and seems as buoyant as bookstore owner Angela Trigg. He eagerly announced the move on social media this spring and an April 8 video on the Haunted Book Shop Facebook page shows him hard at work on the expansive buildout.
Trigg wants to add a small cafe on premises so she will need every bit of the 2,000-square-foot floorplan. There’s another 2,000 square feet upstairs. She needs space for events, book signings and the like she currently hosts.
“We’re not going upstairs just yet,” Trigg said, audibly excited. She has long-range ideas; however, acclimating to a new locale with additional food and beverage service is enough to handle for now.
Trigg expressed uncertainty about the long-term availability of the bookstore’s current site. It’s a prime location. They have active neighbors in Sophiella Gallery, Pizzeria Delphina and The Haberdasher. Squid Ink is across the street and there’s a constant stream of foot traffic from the hotels on nearby Royal Street.
Their future spot has its own charm, though. The building’s rustic trappings would change the bookstore’s character, but not for the worse.
Café 219 would be directly across Conti Street. It’s an active crossroads for a diverse slice of Mobile. That means a lot of idle eyes, glancing through the picture windows at the bookstore while they chew sandwiches and salads.
The bookstore would also be on the corner nearest the Saenger Theatre’s main entrance. The Mobile Arts Council’s gallery is next to that. Potent potables can be had at Alchemy, the bookstore’s back neighbor on Joachim.
It might not have the identical tourist appeal as Bienville Square, but maybe that’s good. Maybe when tourists wander in, they will more keenly realize they stumbled on a purely local and authentic experience.
Trigg said there are about 15,000 books to move. She wants to reduce stock through a pair of summer sales.
She noted the uptick in business since COVID fears have alleviated. The reputed heavy turnout at May’s LoDa ArtWalk is indicative of the bookstore’s springtime trend.
“March was a record month for us,” Trigg said.
The Haunted Book Shop was originally founded in 1941 by Trigg’s grandmother and a business partner, then established north of its current location. Titled after Christopher Morley’s book of the same name, it quickly became a notable haunt for literature fans. It stemmed eccentric stories of Russian sailors who slept on the bookstore sofas and Brookley Air Base flyboys who clocked their races for the store. Luminaries like Thomas Mann, Eugene Walter and William March could be spied wandering the shelves.
According to Trigg, a customer once told a stranger leafing through a William Faulkner book “his brother’s a much better writer,” unaware the man he advised was the author praised, John Faulkner.
The original store closed in 1991.
Cultural honcho Greg Cyprian has finally left the hospital after months of battling COVID-19. An update to Cyprian’s GoFundMe page said “he wants to share” he is a bilateral amputee, losing portions of both legs. It listed “generators, medical treatment and devices and retrofitting his home to accommodate his new reality” as challenges ahead.
The funding drive has raised a posted $22,513 of its $100,000 goal.
The Mystic Order of the Jazz Obsessed (MOJO) will feature Roman Street in their May Jazz A La Fresco event. The outdoor concert takes place at Central Presbyterian Church (1260 Dauphin St.) on May 24 at 6:30 p.m.
The event takes place in the church parking lot at the corner of Dauphin and Ann, across from the Alabama School of Math and Science. Bring your own chairs and picnic. Beverages will be available.
Entrance is $15, $10 for MOJO members. Food donations for the Food Pantry at Central are requested.
Advance tickets are available through mojojazz.org.
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