“What the fuck do you mean you’re in college, and you don’t want to learn?” Tony Weller said in frustration as he described an interaction with a misdirected youth. At the Weller Book Works 90th Anniversary Party, Weller obviously enjoyed bouncing from guest to guest as he shared anecdotes from his 47 years in the bookstore started by his grandfather, Gustav Weller. In 1929, Gustav started selling books in his junk shop and renamed it Zion’s Bookstore. It’s a bookstore that Tony’s father, Sam Weller, turned into a literary destination on Salt Lake City’s Main Street. Weller Book Works now fills two floors at Trolley Square, and it’s as vibrant and inviting as the family of booksellers who curate its staff recommendation shelves. Their site describes the entire history of Weller Book Works, and it’s well worth a read.
In his remarks at the event, Tony Weller described what it takes to make a bookstore thrive: “A bookstore requires a different mindset and staff than a warehouse. We were thoughtful in making this store an interesting and comfortable place to browse and our affection for it is great. We designed aisles and selected music to resemble the dynamism of minds reading. We hired booksellers who read a lot and understood the value of reading,” he said.
Weller Books Works now offers many ways for bibliophiles to get their fix. There’s a Breakfast Club hosted by Catherine Weller on Tuesdays, and a crafter-friendly Lit Knit on alternate Wednesdays. Weller Book Works also hosts several readings each month. The Sept. 14 speaker, Randall Munroe, will answer questions and sign his new book, How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems. His XKCD webcomic catapulted him to fame, and Weller Book Works is helping to bring him to Libby Gardner Hall at the University of Utah. (Beat that, Jeff Bezos!)
But seriously, after almost five decades shelving books, Weller appreciates the brick-and-mortar bookstore experience: “Sometimes, browse without aim because there is a book you don’t know about that you need or that will bring you joy,” he said. My advice? Start with the ISMs.
All photos: John Barkiple