After being closed to in-person browsing since last March, the Raven Book Store is relocating its storefront onto Mass. St. The move has been in the works for years, and was especially spurred by a rise in sales.
At the new location, there will be a bigger sales floor, as well as a back room where processing books can take place. Owner Danny Caine cited the lack of wheelchair and stroller accessibility at the current location, where steps lead to the front door, as another reason for the move.
“It’s a pretty strong belief that a bookstore should be a welcoming, accessible space, and in a huge way, we were not welcoming or accessible to a population we care about and who deserves access to the bookstore like anyone else,” Caine said.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Raven’s online purchases accounted for 1-2% of all sales. According to Caine, this changed dramatically in 2020, with 98% of all business taking place online. Because of this, most space inside the Raven is used for processing online orders.
Axe-throwing business, Blade & Timber, was located at 809 Mass. St., before a fire caused its closure in Oct. 2019. The new space is being custom built to the Raven’s specifications because of the extensive restoration needed. Restoration is expected to finish by the end of May, and the Raven’s designer will start working in June to install the new bookshelves and fixtures.
“We’re making a custom-built space, which is exciting and kind of a dream come true,” Caine said. “For the longest time, it was just a burned-out shell. It’s really exciting to see the walls and see it come together.”
Caine said the Raven plans to open doors to customers in July, as long as CDC guidelines allow in-person shopping. All bookstore employees are partially vaccinated right now, but Caine said they will not make any decisions that could put employees at unnecessary risk.
In the meantime, the Raven has opened a walk-up window at its location on 6 East 7th St. The Raven’s leadership team was inspired to open the window after seeing two other bookstores, Foggy Pine Books in Boone, North Carolina, and Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis, Minnesota, feature drive-thrus and walk-up windows.
“It lets people have the kind of spontaneous interaction with a bookseller that you would have in a bookstore without the confined space,” Caine said. “We’ve had a couple regulars come up just to talk and say hi, and people are placing orders. We want to be able to offer something to people who are browsing around downtown Lawrence, in a way that keeps everyone safe.”
Throughout the changes Raven Book Store has experienced in the past year, Caine said he appreciates his team of booksellers, the customers and fellow small businesses located on Mass. St.
“We’ve got our stuff with Amazon, Ladybird Diner does their amazing work feeding those in need, I love that Wonder Fair is so passionate about local politics,” Caine said. “Just today, I saw Love Garden [Sounds] spreading the word about the public library’s internet initiative. Everybody has their own way of using their small business platform to fight for a better world.”
Raven Book Store has plans for Independent Bookstore Day on April 24, however, they’re keeping those plans a secret for now. The Raven’s new collection of merchandise will also be released on April 24 and can be preordered on its website.
Reflecting on the past year, Caine said he has a talented team of booksellers who have been able to stay safe during the pandemic, which was a goal of his.
“It’s been quite an adjustment,” Caine said. “We’re overwhelmed with gratitude toward the community for supporting us, in a way that we feel safe coming to work and we can help people connect with the books they love.”
Caine believes the new location should be open for in-person browsing by July 2021.