Russell Etchen is moving on.
After seven years as manager and curator of Domy Books, the tall, ginger-haired fellow with the easygoing manner is leaving the business.
"It's time, Brenner," Etchen says, nodding. He's not sad about the situation, exactly; he's, well, wistful might be the most precise word. Looking forward to whatever comes next, peering into the future with a mixture of trepidation and joy. But, as he says, it's time. "The owner [Dan Fergus, who also owns the Houston outpost of Domy] let us know that he's going to withdraw financial support for the Austin store – because it's not, ah, it's just not feasible to keep both locations going. And I suppose, you know, I could try to continue with it myself, try to keep the store going, but ..." He stares into the distance. "After seven years," he says, "I think it's time to close this part of my life. It's time to move on."
So, after two years helping Fergus launch Domy in Houston, followed by almost five years at the helm of the Austin location, Russell Etchen is turning the local reins over to his bibliophile assistants Travis Kent and Mikaylah Bowman.
And Kent and Bowman – two people committed (like Etchen) to the power of text and image, two artists dedicated to exploring a thriving world of creation beyond Just The Same Old Shit – are turning the store into something much like it's been for years – but also something more attuned to their particular sensibilities and what they believe the community will support. Brilliant literature. Limited-edition art books. Magazines that you probably can't find anywhere else. And a carefully curated selection of used volumes, too.
They're going to call it Farewell Books.
"We realize we've got to put everything we have into it," says Kent, who moved to Austin from New York in 2009 – partly because Domy Books (and Arthouse and the Church of the Friendly Ghost and the Alamo Drafthouse) was so appealing.
"We know that it's going to take a lot of work," says Bowman, an Austin native who, if you cut her, would probably bleed antique ink. "But we're not going into this blind."
They're a bit nervous; they're a bit excited; they're ready to make this new thing succeed.
"This bookstore, the community it's part of, " says Kent, "this is something we believe in."
"If we didn't think this was something we could do forever," says Bowman, "we wouldn't be doing it."
[Note: For a couple of years now, the space at Domy that was available exclusively for books has been diminishing. In an effort as much to stave off the ravening hounds of rent as to tap into community synergy, the bookstore's interior added retailers Busy-Being, Olive, and Paper Party to its commercial offerings, truncating the store's once-expansive visual-arts gallery – host to so many lauded exhibitions. But now, with the change to Farewell Books, those three cohabitants will be heading elsewhere, to be replaced by local bastion of art and handmade/vintage fashion Las Cruxes. (One definite holdover through the metamorphosis: Schmaltz, the vegetarian deli-in-a-trailer run by Julia Hungerford, will continue to serve up its delectable cuisine from alongside the building at 913 East Cesar Chavez.)]
Right now, particulars of the new lease are being negotiated.
Russell Etchen will continue to manage the bookstore until the end of January.
On the first of February, 2013, this city will say goodbye to Domy and hello to Farewell.
We wish them well and look forward to many hours of perusing some of the finest books, art, and esoteric magazines available.
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