In an era when bookstores large and small have struggled to compete with internet sellers and e-readers, Politics and Prose has thrived. It has managed to be a widely acclaimed bookstore, a community-gathering place, a sought-after author venue, and much more, right here in our neighborhood. I’m sure I am not the only one who has described where I live – proudly – by saying “walking distance from Politics and Prose.” But perhaps it was inevitable that the success of this neighborhood treasure would lead it to expand beyond its current location.
The owners of Politics and Prose, Lissa Muscatine and Bradley Graham, were approached several months go by Andy Shallal, the owner of Busboys and Poets, with a proposal that sounded intriguing enough for them to begin serious discussions. Graham said it did not take long for them to decide that it would be the right opportunity, noting that he expects the arrangement to “provide a wonderful synergy between two terrific community institutions and a win-win for both Politics and Prose and Busboys and Poets.”
Busboys and Poets is a local restaurant, bookseller, and community gathering place. It currently has operations in DC at 14th and V Streets, and 5th and K Streets, as well as Shirlington and Hyattsville. This month they are opening in Brookland, and next month in Takoma Park. Shallal reached out to Graham and Muscatine because while books are an important part of the mission of Busboys and Poets, he acknowledges that he is “not a bookstore manager.”
Politics and Prose will manage the bookstore operations – to be known as Politics and Prose @ Busboys and Poets – at five of the Busboys and Poets locations, beginning with the Brookland location when it opens in mid-December. This will include curating the books, staffing the retail operations, and organizing and sponsoring author talks and other book-related community events. Selecting the books for each location will involve some tailoring to the interests of the local community, but the larger selection at the Connecticut Avenue store will be easily accessible to customers at Politics and Prose @ Busboys and Poets.
Every Busboys and Poets location has well-equipped event space, where they currently host author talks and other programs. This too will offer wonderful synergy, as Politics and Prose is one of the most sought-after author venues in the area. It hosts daily author events at the Connecticut Avenue store, and has had to expand to other locations in order to meet the demand. The event staff will be able to say yes to many more authors, and Politics and Prose customers will have more author events from which to choose.
So how will this affect the local Politics and Prose? Graham is clear that he only sees upside for our neighborhood store, by extending the Politics and Prose brand and “making more people across Washington aware of who we are and what we do.”
“The more people who read books, engage with authors, and participate in discussions about literature and ideas,” said Graham, “the better it is for Politics and Prose and the entire community.”
This does sound like a win-win for Politics and Prose and Busboys and Poets. And if it helps Politics and Prose thrive while serving a wider audience, it is indeed a win for our neighborhood.
(On May 25, 2017, Politics and Prose announced that Busboys and Poets was moving toward staffing and managing its own bookstores, and that they would be phasing out their joint operations. Five days later, it announced plans to open a Union Market location.)