As professors at the University of Colorado Boulder, Gene Hayworth and Keith Waters know a thing or two about the written word. So when the chance arrived to open a new bookstore in Niwot, the couple went beyond the book in the era of big-box and online retailers, deciding to dedicate their free time to creating a community centered around consuming some of the 6,000 new and used titles the store carries. We tracked down the co-owners for the run-down on operating a bookstore.
Q. What inspired you to open Inkberry Books?
Hayworth: I’m a full-time librarian, a publisher and an author, and as you can imagine, books play a major role in my life. I grew up with five sisters and one brother in a rural community in North Carolina, and books were a luxury. The school library was my second home. It wasn’t until I left home as a first-generation college student that I discovered bookstores — for me that was cathartic. I developed an obsession for collecting books, and when we moved to Colorado in 1995, we traveled here with about 5,000 volumes. I realized that I had to do something. I opened an online store, but I realized at the time that online was not the best solution. A bookstore needs a community and a physical place to share ideas.
Q. Why Niwot?
Hayworth: When we first moved to Boulder, there were about 10 bookstores here. One by one, we have seen them close. Boulder still has Boulder Book Store and Red Letter Books, and Longmont has the two wonderful stores, Used Book Emporium and Barbed Wire Books. With its location between Boulder and Longmont, Niwot was a logical choice.
Waters: Niwot has the charm of a small town, with a cultured and highly educated population. It seemed like exactly the right mix and has the advantage of being home to many authors and artists.
Q. What is it like to open an independent bookstore in this day and age?
Hayworth: It is exciting and frightening at the same time. Although we’ve been open for two years, there are still many people in Niwot who do not know we’re here. The Niwot Business Association does a wonderful job organizing events like “Let’s Wine About Winter” and the First Friday Art Walk, and those events help get people out and into the store. Running a bookstore really is a labor of love, and we’re grateful to have this opportunity.
Waters: There are challenges and opportunities. Not everyone enjoys reading — or reading from actual books — but those who do have been unbelievably supportive of our store. Gene also has envisioned the spot as a kind of cultural center for author readings, and we’ve had both local and nationally known authors, and we’ve done jazz concerts and other events.
Q. What is the most unusual book request you have received so far?
Waters: A discounted edition of the original Gutenberg Bible.
Hayworth: Our bestselling book is the children’s title Walter the Farting Dog. One morning a young boy came in with his mother and asked her to buy it for him. His mother said, “Let’s talk about that while we eat breakfast next door.” As they were leaving, the boy turned around, pointed a finger at me, and said, “You keep an eye on that book for me!”