The annual Colorado Press Women’s Author’s Lunch often celebrates the local. And what could be more bookishly Denver than the Tattered Cover Book store? Denver native Mark Barnhouse opened the Author’s Lunch with a talk on one of his latest local history books, “Tattered Cover Book Store: A Storied History.” Colorado Press Woman Sandy Graham said in introducing Barnhouse that “just reading the titles of his books is like a tour through the city.” They include “Denver’s Sixteenth Street,” “Northwest Denver” and “The Denver Dry Goods: Where Colorado Shopped with Confidence.”
Barnhouse was at work on a book on vanished Denver landmarks when his publisher, Arcadia’s The History Press, asked him to write a book to help celebrate Tattered Cover’s 50th anniversary. The University of Colorado Denver grad was an obvious choice both because of his previous books and because he worked at Tattered from 1994 to 2000.
“I was a Tattered Cover employee for the most interesting five and a half years of my life,” Barnhouse said.
Barnhouse took his audience on a Tattered tour, starting at its 1971 founding by Stephen Cogil Casari in what is now the lower level of the Men’s Wearhouse in Cherry Creek. Joyce Meskis, who had worked at her college bookstore and owned a bookshop in Parker, bought Tattered in 1974 from Casari. She expanded the 950-square-feet Cherry Creek shop to a department-store size space. She hosted readings by such writers as Madeleine Albright, Julia Child and Michelle Obama, and oversaw several moves, and green-carpeted branch openings – including one that helped revitalize lower downtown Denver. Meskis also built a reputation as a First Amendment champion.
Meskis sold Tattered in 2017 to Kristen Gilligan and her husband Len Vlahos, who, last year, sold it to a group of investors led by Denver natives Kwame Spearman and David Back. The store’s history is also a history of Denver’s bust-and-boom economy, political and social movements, and Amazon’s impact on the book industry.
Barnhouse remembers first visiting Tattered in 1980, in search of a complete Dickens set. He found three shelves of Dickens at Tattered.
“I needed a store that would have everything. And guess what? Tattered Cover did,” he said. “Joyce always wanted to stock as much as she possibly could.”
Myriad personal histories are woven into Tattered’s tale, as evidenced by the number of hands raised when Barnhouse asked who in his audience remembered their own first visit.
–Review by Donna Bryson
–Photos by Ann Lockhart
Annual Colorado Press Women’s Author’s Lunch, November 2021
About Tattered Cover Book Store
Established in 1971, Tattered Cover Book Store is one of America’s premier independent bookstores, a Denver institution, a community gathering place, and an experience you can’t download. Tattered Cover is locally-owned business with an unwavering commitment to the customer and the community, with five unique stores in metro Denver, and three satellite stores at Denver International Airport. Each location offers personal service, a large, well-curated selection of new and used books, an extensive newsstand, and gifts. Tattered Cover hosts more than 600 authors, illustrators, public figures, community events, book festivals and schools annually. The larger stores have cafes with free Wi-Fi. The extensive and robust program for schools gets kids reading. Tattered Cover sets up over 150 pop-up Tattered Covers Book Stores remotely each year. Readers can join the literary conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, and can shop 24 hours a day for books, digital audiobooks, and e-books at www.tatteredcover.com.
The book is available at Arcadia Press.
2526 E. Colfax, Denver (across from Denver E High School)
McGregor Square, Wazee & 20th, Denver (across from Rockies stadium)
Aspen Grove Shopping Center, Littleton
Union Station, 1701 Wynkoop St., Denver
(previously a large 2-story store across the street from Union Station)
Stanley Marketplace, Aurora
Park Meadows Mall Pop-Up, Lone Tree
The Lyons Recorder will be offering a Book Review each week in December — which either reflects content based in Colorado, or written by a Colorado author — for HOLIDAY GIFT GIVING Ideas!