This story was originally written for The Spenardian.
According to Vered Mares, if you’re looking for a wide selection of Alaskan-written books in Anchorage, you’ll have to buy a ticket out-of-town.“The only other bookstore in the city that sells a really terrific selection of Alaska books is in the airport at Mosquito Books, but you have to have a boarding pass to get there,” Mares said.
Mares notes that the Anchorage bowl has several bookstores, but each with its own niche. Title Wave is located off of Northern Lights Blvd. in Spenard, but resells used books. Barnes and Noble sells more generic and national selling books, but neither establishment has a large selection of books written by locals.
“I started a small publishing house in Spenard in 2011, and one of the biggest gaps that I saw here in Anchorage was that we do not have a good outlet for bookstores that sell new books, especially for small publishers and unknown but up-and-coming writers,” Mares said.
Mares, Spenard resident, wants to create a venue in the Anchorage area for new books written by local writers who have yet to make it big, and is hoping to change this with The Writer’s Block.
Spenard Road will have the new multi-purpose establishment come fall-time, equipped with coffee, beer and wine, music and books. The Writer’s Block hopes to provide a venue for a variety of events to the Spenard and Anchorage community.
Mares was inspired to purchase Adults Only, a pornography shop in Spenard that existed for decades, in October of 2015 and since then is completely rebuiling the establishment from the ground up. The old building was composed of two trailers struck together, which was demolished last month.
Currently, construction of the new building is underway along Spenard Road, which will be twice the size of the original complex. By the beginning of August, there should be walls on the foundation.
“The building itself is designed around a multi-use concept. So there’s a semi-private room that can be cordoned off for small workshop events, but there’s also a stage and performance area, which we can use for literary events or readings or lecture series or musical performances. After talking to many local musicians, there wasn’t a good venue for listening spaces,” Mares said.
Construction funding came from Denali Federal Credit Union, a local bank for The Writer’s Block’s main funding. Mares recognizes the importance of local establishments, since much of the designs and plans have been created by local individuals. The architect that Mares hired has an office just three blocks away from The Writer’s Block. Mares hopes that the community will support The Writer’s Block and encourage its success.
“We want this to be a center hub for the neighborhood and a community gathering place, where your kids can come after school and hang out in the young adults section, or your little one can come with you and hang out in the children’s book section while you have a glass of wine at the end of your work day,” Mares said. “You can meet your friends there and catch a literary event or show, or see some artwork that currently isn’t on display elsewhere and discover something new, not just about literature, music and art, but discover something new that you didn’t know you were looking for.”
Jessica Stugelmayer, Spenard resident, has lived in the area since last year. She hopes that the new establishment will make Spenard more accessible by foot traffic.
“I moved to Anchorage from a town that was very bike-friendly and walkable. It was a hard adjustment for me to drive so much. With the construction on multiple parts of Spenard and this new cafe, as well as other shops and restaurants, I hope it makes people feel like they can walk, shop and eat in their own neighborhood,” Stugelmayor said. “I love that Writer’s Block will be a coffee shop that I can walk to from my house and a venue for music.”
The business is anticipating on opening its doors in November and will be hiring towards the end of September for baristas and staff.
For updates on the The Writer’s Block, visit their Facebook page.