Andrew Colarusso did not grow up dreaming of owning a bookstore – he wanted to be a rapper and a basketball player. Then one day this winter, he was handed the keys to a small space on Cortelyou Road, a block from his childhood home, that will become Taylor & Co Books in March.
Colarusso, a soft-spoken 33-year-old, grew up in a family of book-loving law enforcement officers and became a poet rather than a rapper. After teaching at Brown University for seven years, he came home this summer feeling directionless and lost. A chance encounter at Brooklyn Artery, which was about to move across the street to a larger space, led him to take over their lease, and on March 4, he is set to open the first bookstore the area has seen since Mostly Books closed in 1999.
Colarusso hopes that by keeping costs down, curating a diverse, quality offering, and creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere (very much modeling itself on Brooklyn Artery, he says), the store will win over enough neighbors to remain in business for at least five years – that is how long is left on the lease. His vision? Transform the space into a tiny version of the bookstore he still loves most, St. Mark's Bookshop in East Village, now closed.
"They always had this really quirky and amazing selection of authors. And they also had thriving consignments. So as a young poet, I would make art books and sell them at St. Mark's. Sometimes I would go in there and kind of casually pass by the consignment shelf to see if my book sold, and then the guy who ran the consignment table, he was like, 'oh, yeah, your book sold. Here's your $10.' And it was such a wonderful feeling."
The tiny space, about 300 square feet, Colarusso says, "is big enough to carry the essentials and to make it also feel cozy enough and comfortable enough that you might sit down for a little while and read something."
The initial offering will be broad, and it will be a couple of months before he gets a sense of what the local community wants, he explains, saying he'll start with books he thinks people will like and adapt to offer what people in the neighborhood gravitate towards and what he feels comfortable selling to people.
"I come out of Black and Caribbean literature and Spanish literature. And poetry. That's what I know best," Colarusso adds. "I think I can offer a strong poetry section, which would be more interesting and varied than the generic Barnes and Nobles offering of the dead poets. But there will be contemporary bestsellers, too."
The store will carry books like Albums by Jamel Shabazz, the acclaimed Brooklyn photographer, Odes to Lithium by Shira Erlichman (whom Colarusso met while waiting for a friend at Café Madeline), or Enter Ghost by Isabella Hammad (coming this April), he promises.
"I hope to offer something that is representative of the neighborhood at large so that anyone, whether you're coming from the mosque on Coney Island Avenue, or studying ancient Hebrew, whether you're looking for a comic or Japanese manga – I want to see it reflected in the bookstore, I want it to be as diverse as this neighborhood is."
The store is named after Colarusso's stepfather, Arthur Taylor. "I'm the '& Co.'" Colarusso laughs. "I wanted it to feel like a family place, and they're all really involved in helping me get it together."
"The Taylor's, without them, I can't do any of this. My mother especially is very excited about this. My sister, who works in publishing, is very excited. And my dad, he's still very much in kind of law enforcement. He does security, and one of the first things he said was, "Do you need security? I can do security," and I was like, "God, I don't know."
While Colarusso says it doesn't take much to convince somebody that a human experience trumps a digital experience when it comes to books, he is also planning to host events and readings, sell books online, and possibly even deliver in the neighborhood. But to begin, it will be one man and his books.
Taylor & Co plans to open for business on March 4, a Saturday, at 1021 Cortelyou Road.