Reverie Books Opens a New Chapter for the Community
Local queer-owned South Austin bookstore holds its grand opening
By James Scott,
12:35PM, Fri. Oct. 14, 2022
In September of last year, Thais Perkins took a chance. She admits the chance was taken not for financial gain but instead a risk for passion, for community, and for healing. A year and a month later, that chance – Reverie Books, Best of Austin winner for Best Tiny Bookshop – finally gets its well-due grand opening all day Saturday.
Perkins tells the story of Reverie’s start as a post-pandemic leap of faith that occurred because a friend was shutting down his own bookstore in the same space. Fresh off running a pandemic pod school as well as working until 2019 for nonprofit TreeFolks, she decided her skills from the nonprofit world and desire to create positive change transferred well into the role of bookseller. “It was the opportunity to make a meaningful place to kind of help us heal,” she recalls, “not just from the pandemic, but from the Black Lives Matter protests, the political environment that we're all swimming in. It felt like a healing and good thing to do.”
Settling into the South Austin area made sense as the starting point for Perkins’ goals with Reverie, as she describes it as having “a bit more of a neighborhood feel.” That area is where she already resides with her family, who all participate in running the bookshop. Perkins credits her wife’s dedication to helping out at the store on top of a day job as one of the main reasons the lights stay on. “She loves to be part of it, you know,” Perkins says. “It gives us all such a sense of meaning.” Her son and daughter also help out, with her son being more interested in the business and marketing of the store and her daughter having painted the murals in the bathroom.
Another reason South Austin works well for Reverie is its proximity to both Austin Community College and Crockett High School, as Perkins has tried hard to make the bookshop a welcoming space for young people. Each semester, she takes on a paid high school intern to show them the ropes of running a business. In what she calls the “educational linchpin” to the position, the intern also runs Reverie’s Young Adult Banned Book Club, a group where teens come together to discuss books like Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender or Korean graphic novel Banned Book Club that not only provide new perspectives for them to understand but also give a safe space for the kids to engage with material currently under threat from conservative Texas ire.
“It also helps create kind of a third place sense of community for them,” Perkins explains. “T concept of the third place [is] you've got home, and you've got school or work and then it's nice to have an extra community. I think the kind of kids that are drawn to doing something like a banned book club have a lot in common, and they're all wonderful young people.”
Not just young adults have found comfort in the community-focused bookshop, Perkins says, as older folks have come in needing to heal from current events. “I was checking out this woman,” she says, “and she was buying all these books of poetry. She said they were all gifts for employees that were leaving, and I thought ‘That’s a lot of employees to be leaving at one time, like, are you okay?’ And it turned out, she had run the Planned Parenthood division that actually performed abortions, and they were all laid off.” Perkins speaks to more situations where people opened up among the bookshelves, and says that’s why she went into the bookstore business in the first place.
“I admit bookstores are not financially a winning proposition to begin with,” she says, “and I always knew it was gonna look a little more like a nonprofit than a money making enterprise right? But then again, that's not really what it was for. It was for community. It was for giving back. It was for creating these sort of warm spaces for people.”
Perkins ultimate goal for Reverie is to move to a large physical space and offer even more community services as a functioning nonprofit. For now, though, she’s ready to celebrate the start of something special with everyone. Prizes, music from several jazz bands, the Crockett High School Marching Band, and more will all serve to salute a grand opening one year in the making. “We're just gonna have a party,” Perkins says, “and celebrate having created this bookstore in the middle of a pandemic and actually making it.”
Reverie Books is located on 5330 Menchaca Road. Grand opening festivities will start in-store at 10am, with outdoor activities beginning at 4pm and running until 10pm. Bring a chair!