by LINDA MARGISON
Rick Morgenstern says he closed his independent bookstore, Morgenstern Booksellers, in 1996 after national chains Barnes & Noble and Borders squeezed him out. But he never gave up on his dream of reopening, which he plans to do in May.
“I’ve kept my eye open for the right opportunity,” he says, adding that he saw his opening when both franchised bookstores closed their doors in recent years.
In 2018, he submitted a letter to the editor of The Herald-Times asking the community if they’d be interested in a new independent bookstore. “The response was overwhelmingly positive—hundreds of emails and phone calls, people stopping me in the street to share their memories of the first store, and their excitement about the possibility of its return. So, I knew I was onto something,” he explains. In all, he received more than 350 responses.
That was the encouragement Morgenstern needed to seek out and secure investors, including neurosurgeon Todd Eads, entrepreneur Jon Levitt, Indiana University psychology professor Jack Bates, and Lindsay Nettle, who was a Barnes & Noble employee for 20 years.
Morgenstern says he originally expected to open the bookstore in 2020, but the pandemic changed his plans. Instead, he opened a pop-up bookstore inside BloomingTea and launched an online bookstore, Morgenstern Books, which will carry over to the brick- and-mortar store in the former Pier 1 storefront at 849 S. Auto Mall Road.
Morgenstern says the full-service bookstore will have a café and event space, while offering a strong children’s department, handmade artisan wares, and an extensive section for calendars and paper goods in 9,000 square feet of space. It will also have a comprehensive magazine section, which has been lacking in Bloomington since Barnes & Noble left town.
“We want to grow into a large, multifaceted community center or center for community life, and we will take that wherever it leads,” he says, understanding that his store will also have to compete against online sellers like Amazon.
“What Morgenstern’s will offer that Amazon can’t is a local gathering community space in four walls, where you can bring your family or meet up with your friends and have coffee and hold books in your hands, and it’s just the whole kind of art-scene experience. Amazon just can’t do that.”
For information and up-to-date news on the store’s opening, find Morganstern Books on Facebook or visit morgensternbooks.com.