Lizzo blasted from a set of Bluetooth speakers as shoppers wandered through the brand new Possible Futures bookstore, perusing shelves and taking in the artwork.
New Haven’s latest independent bookstore opened its doors in the Edgewood neighborhood on Aug. 22. It offers a space where shoppers are free to crack open book covers, work, wander or simply relax on one of its many upholstered chairs.
For Lauren Anderson, Possible Futures has been the culmination of a 10-year journey. Anderson left her job as a formerly tenured professor to pursue a lifelong dream of running a bookstore. After running a previous store, Anderson decided to move her business closer to her own community. She started looking for new places and drafting business plans in January.
Following a monthslong wait for zoning approval, the space was finally approved for business. Possible Futures is conveniently located at the heart of the Edgewood neighborhood, with both the 246 CT Transit bus line and bike lanes traveling right past its doors.
Possible Futures sells books, but Anderson made its priority as a community space clear. She explained how the store has committed to making itself open for all. The airy storefront, with plush sofa chairs and tables scattered between bookshelves, features an ADA-accessible bathroom and a rear parking lot. The store is a place where “people in the neighborhood can come in just to hang out, talk,” Anderson said.
Its spirit of open doors also extends to its shelf space. Books are curated to showcase underrepresented authors, with an emphasis on titles that have not always received the limelight of New York Times reviews and bestsellers lists. In a publishing industry dominated by white authors, too many books often slip through the cracks, Anderson explained.
“What’s here reflects our community and offers a little bit of connection to certain books in other places,” Andersontold the News. To maintain a selection of works that best reflects the community’s diversity, she regularly seeks out advice from customers and neighbors alike.
Today, shoppers walking in for the first time can find titles ranging from W.E.B DuBois’ “Black Reconstruction in America” to Anthony Veasno So’s “Afterparties.” Books by up-and-coming authors are lined cheek-by-jowl beside familiar bestsellers, offering readers an opportunity to explore. On the rightmost wall, the store exhibits artwork from a rotating selection of local artists; featured artists get to choose book titles that center around the theme of their pieces.
Anderson kept returning to connection and community as the cornerstone of her work. While Possible Futures emerges as yet another bookstore in New Haven’s literary landscape, Anderson firmly reiterated that it is rooted in her neighborhood.
When speaking about the store’s role in the Edgewood community, Andrerson stressed the importance of “listening to people…about what they would want the space to be.” Keeping the space open for everyone has also encouraged her to partner with organizations like the Pride Center.
The store’s intimacy has not gone unnoticed.
“Smaller stores are more personal than Barnes and Noble”, said Ben McManus, local Edgewood resident. “The store has its own personality … and having the option to actually sit is a big plus.”
Local residents trickled in. Some had wandered in while walking, some had visited after biking past it, and others had recently discovered the store on Instagram. Among them, local resident Mark Abraham had been impressed by the store’s selection of children’s books as he scanned new titles for his kids.
“I found a newfound enjoyment of children’s books … about race and gender, and stuff I didn’t get to read about as a kid,” Karolina Ksiazek ’15, another local resident and bookstore customer added.
Multiple shoppers admitted that the intimacy of the in-person book-shopping experience has also given them freedom to stumble across new titles and authors for themselves.
“It’s just convenient to be able to stop on a lark and go look for books without having to be on a screen all day,” said Abraham.
The store has been finding new ways to engage with the community. Just two weeks into business, Possible Futures already has plans to host “book lunches,”author readings and more local events.
“I believe in living where you work and working where you live, and knowing people,” Anderson said.
Possible Futures is located on 318 Edgewood Ave.