NYU Portfolio, q&a

Q&A: Michael Fusco-Straub

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In some ways Michael Fusco-Straub and his wife, Emma, are the ideal couple to open a bookstore. He’s a graphic designer and she’s a novelist. So when their beloved BookCourt closed down, they decided to create a new hub for Brooklyn bookworms. They opened Books are Magic on May 1 in Cobble Hill, hoping to be the new pulse of the reading public. Emma curated the shelves and Michael designed the modern and unique space to fit the name, with wooden bookshelves and exposed brick.

On a recent Friday morning, Michael was restocking books in the back of the shop and he took time to chat.

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What interested you in opening a bookshop in Cobble Hill?

We were at BookCourt almost every day. Actually Emma worked there for four years, and so we had a relationship with the owners. When we found out that it was closing, we instantly felt like it was our job to take this on and to make this happen, and we did.

Why the name, Books are Magic?

We both felt like the kind of energy and vibe that we want to be transmitted is that books are fun. Everyone should have them in their lives, and it’s not some kind of technology that’s going out of style. The term ‘books are magic’ is something that we truly believe.

What inspired the design of the store?

Right when we were deciding to open this bookstore, Emma and I took a trip to Portland, Oregon, and we went to this restaurant called “Tusk,” and I walked in I was like ‘This is how I want our bookstore to feel.’ Mainly, I was responding to the color palette, and the sort of airiness of the place and so that’s what I wanted to capture here; sort of light, white, soft pinks, and lots of air. A lot of bookstores feel claustrophobic. I wanted it to feel clean and modern, but also warm and inviting.

What about competition with online booksellers like Amazon?

I think we’re in a unique situation where we live in a neighborhood where people really care about local businesses and make an effort to come out here and support us. That alone is part of the reason why I feel like this is working. Also, we can get any book for anybody in a day, more or less. Most of the time—90 percent of the time—you come in looking for a book, we don’t have it, you get it tomorrow. That’s a good thing, I mean, that competes with whatever is going on online.

What is the process in curating the books?

Because Emma is a fiction writer, when we first opened the store, the fiction shelves were stacked and it was awesome. Then the nonfiction stuff had all these gaps, and we’re still trying to fill them. It’s just because it reflected what Emma knew, but now you know we’re listening to our customers’ special requests. People have been asking for a sci-fi shelf and we’re working on that.

Where do you see Books are Magic in five years?

It’s funny because that is something I haven’t thought about, because you know before we opened all I could think about was opening, and now that we’re open all I’m thinking about is what’s right in front of me. In five years, what I hope is that we’re right here doing what we’re doing and things are running in a slightly more efficient method. I mean things are pretty efficient now, but I think we’ll just get better at doing this.

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**edited for length and content

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