David Ewan, the New Zealand-born certified public accountant who's a partner in Downtown Wine & Spirits, is enough encouraged by its success to open more stores nearby in the 411 Building, which he owns. If all goes well, by next summer, Gay Street will have a bookstore, for the first time in 20 years, and a music store.
A fashion victim of '70s mall facade theories, the 411 Building is actually a 1920s building at 409 and 411 S. Gay, which most recently featured a couple of loan services, an industry that seems to be drying up downtown. Ewan means to renovate the place and, with co-owner April Taylor—also his partner in Ewan & Taylor, CPAs—open a bookstore at 409 called City Books. An unnamed third partner, who has connections with major book wholesalers, is also involved. It won't be a full-service bookstore, but will concentrate on local books, and the top 20 New York Times bestsellers, and discounted books, especially those having to do with art and architecture. They'll serve coffee, and offer seating at sidewalk tables. It will have a real newsstand: "a place to find the New York Times downtown—imagine that," says Ewan, a little drily.
Matt Morelock, the well-known WDVX Blue Plate Special announcer and Maid Rite String Band banjoist, will run a smaller music-supplies store at 411, the sort of place, Morelock says, where musicians can find guitar strings. It may be a significant market now that downtown has about 30 live-music venues.
Ewan calls it a "major renovation"—working with architect Brian Ewers, they already have plans for the interior, but they're still talking about what it'll look like. "I'd like to do the high ceilings and hardwood floors like we have in the liquor store," he says. He says they'll host readings and book signings, as well as events for artists; he hopes to have it all complete by early summer.
When even the big bookstore chains are struggling, Ewan admits, a small bookstore is never a sure thing. "But a good, well-run bookstore is what downtown needs," he says, and brings up a possible affinity between readers and drinkers. "I see some synergies there, people walking from one store to the other."