New bookstore Books and Mortar encourages community


Photo by Saraphina Sefcik

A new chapter began for booksellers Chris Roe and Jonathan Shotwell with the grand opening of their bookstore Books and Mortar on Oct. 1.

From open to close last Saturday Books and Mortar at 955 Cherry St. in East Hills overflowed with booklovers of all ages. Since the soft opening on Sept. 7, Books and Mortar has been a welcoming place where people come to browse books and chat with other booklovers.

“Grand Rapids is a special place in the market for an indie bookstore. The energy for an indie bookstore is here,” said Shotwell.

Roe and Shotwell, Michigan natives, moved to Grand Rapids after living in Chicago for five years. The support that Grand Rapids has for local businesses drew them back to Michigan to pursue their dream of opening an independent bookstore.    

“We believe every great city needs great independent bookstores that reflect its people, its pride, its passions and its challenges. A place where people can gather for conversation, debate and leisure.  A place where they can find a book that might change their lives.  This is exactly what we want to be a part of in Grand Rapids, MI,” said Roe and Shotwell in a post on their website.

Roe and Shotwell hope that people will come to Books and Mortar to learn and understand the significance and impact of having an indie bookstore in the community. According to their mission statement, Books and Mortar strives to be “a community-minded independent bookstore that enhances the quality of life for the people of Grand Rapids.”

With that mission statement in mind, Roe and Shotwell chose a small, quaint space for the home of their bookstore. They could have chosen a larger space that holds more books, but chose to instead focus on learning more about what the community wants and cares about.  They want Books and Mortar to be a bookstore that reflects the community.

If a book is not on the shelf, special ordering is available. Almost anything can be special ordered and will arrive within two days. Roe and Shotwell emphasized that special ordering supports other local business and lets the money stay in the neighborhood.

To encourage reading and community gathering, Books and Mortar will host events such as author visits, grown-up storytime and live unplugged music.

“We want to be a place in the neighborhood that fosters more than spending,” said Roe.

Books and Mortar is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.