Twelve months ago, Colorado Springs' newest bookstore was just a conversation at a poetry reading.
Now it's a brick-and-mortar space waiting to be filled with books, art and the people who just can't trade inked pages and the smell of a newly cracked binding for a Kindle.
Visual artist Marina Eckler and University of Colorado at Colorado Springs student Jonathan Fey capitalized on the interest they discovered at the small event and created Mountain Fold Books, a nonprofit independent bookstore and reading room that will focus on contemporary small-press books, journals and magazines when it opens in August.
"We're focusing on books that are either works of art themselves or topical," Eckler said. "The type of works that don't easily translate to an online medium."
Besides retail sales, Mountain Fold Books will offer a lending service that will work like a public library with a small subscription fee, Fey said. Not only for the literary arts, the space will have a small gallery that will feature print making and text-based visual art.
The August opening seems like only days away, Eckler said, and the two are propelled by a sense of adrenaline to finish everything that needs to get done before then.
"I'm not scared, but the to-do lists are self-proliferating at this point," Eckler said.
The opening date was accelerated by the Pikes Peak Community Foundation's $10,000 Ingenuity Grant, which Mountain Fold received in October, the founders said.
Among other costs, the grant helped Eckler and Fey pay for the 765-square-foot space on East Costilla Street, a block south of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Mountain Fold Books will be part of a developing area that will soon house a brewery, Iron Bird Brewing Co., and a 33-unit apartment building, Blue Dot Place. After searching six months for a space that would fit their needs, Eckler and Fey chose the location for its proximity to the UCCS Gallery of Contemporary Art 121 and affordable rent.
"Just being a little bit to the south (of downtown's core) makes us feel like pioneers," Eckler said.
Along with other nearby developments, Colorado Springs' community of artists and writers - Mountain Fold Books' potential customer base - is growing, she said. The creative class is leaving big cities, such as Denver and San Francisco, for smaller cities such as Colorado Springs that are less congested and have a lower cost of living, Eckler said.
Although neither has business experience, Fey and Eckler recognized the growing customer base and a market vacuum they hope to fill.
In recent years, the book industry has faced big challenges. First, corporate bookstores, such as Borders and Barnes & Noble, overpowered local independent stores such as Chinook Bookshop, which closed in 2004 after 45 years as a Colorado Springs icon. Now, those big-box stores are competing with Amazon and other online services, closing down and leaving a space for independent bookstores to germinate anew, Fey said.