I Am Books —An Italian American Cultural Hub
I Am Books —An Italian American Cultural Hub
The first Italian American bookstore in the U.S., in Boston's historic North End, will be a place to share ideas and create culture.
The first Italian American bookstore in the U.S., in Boston's historic North End, will be a place to share ideas and create culture. Read more
Since 2009, the number of independent bookstores in the United States has grown by 27 percent.
Let's continue that upward trend by opening I Am Books, the country's first and only Italian American bookstore.
Now, you have questions. Let's give you some answers:
What is an Italian American bookstore?
Like any bookstore, I Am Books sells primarily books. What makes this bookstore unique is its focus on Italian and Italian American culture, history, cuisine, art, authors.
Ethnic bookstores are not a new thing, but usually they are geared towards new immigrant communities, in which the native language is still a fundamental component.
I Am Books will feature a few books in Italian, sure, but its inventory will be mostly English language books, as the bookstore's focus will be on the ongoing discussion of what it means to be an American of Italian heritage in this day and age.
The bookstore will host author events, readings, and small acoustic concerts on the ground level, while at the lower level it will hold a media center and the offices of Bostoniano, Boston's Italian American Voice, a print monthly magazine launched in Dec. 2012.
Why an Italian American bookstore in 2015?
Over the years covering the Italian American communities of Eastern Massachusetts, Nicola Orichuia has come across hundreds of immigrant stories. Whether it was recent immigrants, or folks whose great-grandparents had come to the United States from Italy, there is always a common thread: A deep love and strong passion for their Italian roots and heritage.
At the same time, many of these individuals were acutely aware of the absence of a physical place that could represent them culturally. I Am Books will fill that void.
What is Italian American culture?
First of all, let's define culture.
cul·ture (ˈkəlCHər), noun: the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.
Each one of us contributes to the development and evolution of our own culture. In the case of Italian American culture, we are still trying to fully understand what we are talking about. What does it mean to be an Italian living in the United States? What does it mean to be an American of Italian heritage today? How do we tell the stories of parents, grandparents or great-grandparents who came to the United States from Italy and never went back?
I Am Books will hold answers to some of the many questions we have. Other answers might come from a conversation sparked right inside the store. I Am Books, in other words, will serve as a platform for the creation, definition and better understanding of Italian American culture.
Who is behind this project?
I Am Books is a brainchild of Nicola Orichuia, a 33-year-old native Italian who has been living and working in the United States as a journalist since 2008. An immigrant himself, Nicola has been passionately covering the Italian American communities of Chicago (2008-10) and Boston (2010-now). In 2011, he launched the website bostoniano.info to give the Boston community an online presence and voice, and in Dec. 2012, he launched Bostoniano, Boston's Italian American Voice — a monthly print magazine distributed all over the city and its suburbs.
For this project, Nicola has partnered with Jim Pinzino, a semi-retired businessman from the IT world with a heart of gold and a burning passion for his Sicilian roots.
Also involved in the project are:
Lisa Cappuccio, the best consultant/PR person in the entire known universe, who played a fundamental role in the launch on Bostoniano in 2012;
Aldo Cipriano, attorney extraordinaire, who guides us through the dark alleyways of legal jargon;
Adelaide Guarracino, the Quickbooks magician, the accounting queen who reigns over the Northeastern corridor of our fair land;
Stefano Marchese, an artist who knows how to organize a successful event (and have people actually go to it!) in the most extreme weather conditions — we're talking Boston winters, folks;
Franco Sacchi, the ultimate documentary filmmaker who will be working on the most amazing short films and documentaries on the lower level of I Am Books;
Stefano Salimbeni, a mentor and inexhaustible fountain of optimism one can always count on (even when you call him up at 10 a.m., out of the blue, asking him to help you haul 5 enormous bookshelves from Waltham to Boston — see below);
You, with your pledge and show of support, for which we are eternally grateful.
Where is I Am Books located?
In business, it's all about location, location, location.
We have secured a great one in the heart of the North End, Boston's Italian neighborhood. The address is 189 North Street, right across from the Paul Revere House and North Square, two iconic landmarks in the history of the United States.
When will I Am Books open?
Thanks to the hard work of Nicola Orichuia and Jim Pinzino, the bookstore could open as soon as mid-October, although we wouldn't be able to hold a grand opening before late November, as the Kickstarter funds are fundamental in purchasing all the necessary inventory and getting together a team of people to run the day-to-day operations.
For now, we're looking around for bargain stuff. We were lucky to find some great (and heavy) bookshelves in Waltham. We also found a nice postcard and gift card stand at a closed Walgreens.
Do you guys have a website? Are you on social media?
We are in 2015, so if we answered no to one of these questions we'd be in big trouble.
Our website is under construction at the moment, but it will be a beautiful e-commerce ready site that will represent us to the online world. (iambooksboston.com).
Risks and challenges
In general, a bookstore is a challenging business to start in 2015. I Am Books will need to stand out for its unique offerings and perspective.
Initial challenges will involve getting inventory on time, finding the right individuals to employ and setting up a calendar of events.
We'll also be opening at the beginning of the colder season, which in Boston can be brutal (like the winter of 2014-15). This is a significant challenge, as we will have to account for much slower or inexistent traffic on snow days. In the case of early closures for snow storms, we will have to make sure our communication channels (social media, email lists, store window) send the message out clearly.
Holding events in the winter will represent a significant boost to traffic on cold days, but the risk of events being canceled due to inclement weather is high. We will have to find creative solutions (rescheduling, doing live streams online) to lessen the negative impact of cancellations.
In general, we'll have to keep our eyes open and pay close attention to what sells more in the store in the first few months. Getting sales to cover the many overhead costs will be crucial to the bookstore's success.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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