One of Providence’s oldest neighborhoods welcomed something new last year. Co-op bookstore Heartleaf Books on Federal Hill is the brainchild of sisters Caroline and Mads Vericker, both librarians. It’s the first of its kind on Atwells Avenue, as far as anyone can remember. “We’ve asked around quite a bit,” says Mads, “and no one remembers a bookstore being in this part of town. It’s very exciting.”
The charming book nook offers a carefully curated selection of new and used titles, art, and gifts for everyone. From the latest bestsellers to classics and more, you can find a little bit of everything – and if you can’t find it, the shop can put in an order for you. As librarians and avid readers themselves, the Verickers have extensive knowledge about the books they sell and are happy to make recommendations based on your interests. “When I’m not working, I spend my time reading,” says Caroline. “We both do. That’s what’s so great about this place.”
Before planting roots with a brick-and-mortar, Heartleaf Books began as a pop-up shop, selling a variety of titles at local artists and farmers markets, building momentum for September, 2022 when they opened. They sold 2,850 books by the end of 2022 – not bad for an 800-square-foot space. Plus, they sell greeting cards, bookmarks, stickers, tarot cards, and – a crowd favorite – tote bags.
But Heartleaf is more than a bookstore. It’s a community-driven cooperative where guests are encouraged to explore, learn, gather, and connect. Management is handled by a seven-member board of directors, who were instrumental in launching the co-op and securing the retail store location. Anyone may become a member by purchasing a share, which grants access to special benefits and privileges, from discounts on purchases to use of the space for private events.
“We’re already at 170 members, and new faces are always welcome,” says Mads. Along with selling books, the Vericker sisters want Heartleaf to bring people together, which is why they created a meeting space in the store to host book clubs and readings, as well as bringing programming to other nearby locations like The Industrious Spirit Company. They’ve featured local authors including Riss Neilson and Luke Dani Blue.
Even in these early stages of growth and development, Heartleaf has been able to give back to the community, recently holding a book drive for Haus of Codec, a local safe shelter space for youth aged 18 to 24.
And of course, there’s Penny, the shadow-gray store cat who loves to mix and mingle with customers. “She’s the manager,” Caroline jokes. “She’s in charge of where things go. And people come by just to see her. She’s very popular.”
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