At long last Honolulu has an independent bookstore, da Shop, featuring children’s books! Hooray! Bess Press, a highly-regarded regional publisher in the Kaimuki district, opened da Shop (https//dashophnl.com) this spring and is carrying three main kinds of books: best sellers, Hawaiiana, and children’s and young adult. We’re talking today with David DeLuca, store manager.
MUF: After years of nimble marketing as successful regional publishers in Honolulu, what inspired you to go retail and turn your showroom space into a general bookstore ?
DD: – The impetus for creating an independent bookshop came from conversations from customers and community members. We often seek dialogue with the folks we aim to create books for and often times the conversation would turn to the desire for a local, community bookstore. That was something we felt too was lacking, predominately because of what this kind of retail represents; a place for gathering, conversation, a sharing space of knowledge and ideas for all ages. So we took the time to do some research and look at various book retailing models, traditional and contemporary, and came up with the concept for da Shop. And now three years later here we are with a 1,000sq ft bookshop that is focusing on celebrating literature, regionally, nationally and nationally.
MUF: Besides your own Bess Press books, what kinds of things are you featuring at Da Shop? How do you choose what to carry?
DD: As a 39-year old publisher, of education and popular interest content, it was important for us to highlight a book selection that was celebratory of the work done within our industry. All the titles we carry have received some special merit or recognition for the quality of editorial, design/illustration, or something else. Our goal was to truly have a selection divided into thirds that pulled, what we feel, a diverse selection of noteworthy titles. All our titles in our children and juvenile section for example, cover contemporary issues and dynamics and have received high praise from credible sources such as School Library Journal, American Library Association, or other reliable reviewers that most directly work with the age groups of readers those titles are targeted towards.
The other emphasis for us as a brick-and-mortar was to create a space that was hospitable, inviting, and intimate. To do this, we placed a high value on design so that we could maintain that “showroom” style, but also offer areas for kids, adults too, to sit down and explore a book. Reading and literature is meant to be experienced, so we wanted to make that come full circle from our curated title selection to the environment that offered those titles.
MUF: Earlier in the summer, you set up the on-site bookstore for the Biennial Conference on Literature and Hawaii’s Children at Chaminade, where you displayed and sold a great variety of favorite children’s fiction, nonfiction, and picture books. Will you being doing the same in the children’s section of your shop?
DD: Our collective goal, as book buyers and staff is to routinely read through the reviews and nationally recognized works that come out each year. Emphasis for us is to provide a combination of classics and new titles that can be categorized together and also promote each other. We cannot make every title available, but by making ourselves knowledgeable of the variety of literature out there, we can better help inform our customers. We regularly rotate our title selection so that it can be seasonally appropriate, but also so that we can have titles available in the event we are able to participate in a conference or another event.
MUF: As middle-grade authors, we’re curious to know: what are some of the titles, new and classic, fiction and nonfiction you are currently selling or recommending to readers aged 8 to 12?
DD: Well, being an independent bookstore in Hawaii we perhaps exemplify regional better than anywhere else. This idea simply due to our remoteness. So our emphasis is always to find interesting content that local readers can relate to or are interested in. After doing that, we then try to pair titles with similar or like themes that are on a national or international thread.
We are trying to capture a good variety of fiction and non-fiction as it relates to middle-grade readers, as well as capture the wide range of readability amongst this group. At the moment a handful of titles we are carrying that covers this range are:
A Different Pond by Bao Phi and Thi Bui
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
Charlie & Mouse by Laurel Snyder
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson and Sean Qualls
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
Inside Out & Back Again by Thannha Lai
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Refugee by Alan Gratz
Ghosts and Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Pax by Sara Pennypacker
Titles on the higher independent reader side include:
Vincent and Theo, The Van Gogh
Brothers by Deborah Heiligman and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
MUF: Owner/founders of independent bookstores always have a bookstore ideal they try to make real. What’s your dream for your bookstore? What atmosphere do you want to create?
DD: I think all business owners need to have a dream built into their philosophy and one that that they can routinely aspire towards. For me, and my co-owners, our dream was to create an environment that celebrates the entire book, from editorial conception through artistic design and print-production. We wanted to create a space that folks could gather in and have a conversation, or simply sit quietly and browse through a book.
By building da Shop so that it opens up into our book warehouse and packaging fulfillment, folks can see that “behind-the-scenes” reality of distributing books. This also allows for us to lend our space towards events that cater to the community and the bookshop as a community resource. Developing weekly events, that can make the themes presented inside the books we carry, we are striving toward regularly offering immersive experiences that provoke thought and discussion. To us, this celebratory concept combined with offering events helps us take one step toward our dream of opening an environment that encourages children, young adults and adults to engage and be readers who think.
MUF: Please tell us about events and activities coming up at Da Shop, particularly those that might be of interest to middle-graders.
DD: Well, our event calendar is constantly changing with new and interesting happenings, so it is important to check out our website’s events page to see what is happening currently. This next month a few things we are doing are with the Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators workshop (August 18, details at hawaii.scbwi.org), a Yoga story time, and our middle-graders book club is beginning in September. There is more to come as we continue to develop partnerships with other business and organizations that offer services with subjects of interest to young readers.
MUF: Thank you David. One of the joys of doing these Indie spotlights is discovering even more books I need to read. Think I’ll stop by tomorrow for a copy of Bao Phi’s A Different Pond.
Readers, when you visit Honolulu, be sure to check out da Shop!