Courtesy of Reverie Books
In September last year Thai Perkins dared. She admits that the opportunity was not taken for financial reasons, but rather as a risk to passion, community and healing. A year and a month later, this chance – Reverie BooksBest of Austin winner for Best Tiny Bookshop – finally getting its well-due grand opening all Saturday.
Perkins tells the story of Reverie’s launch as a post-pandemic leap of faith that took place because a friend closed his own bookstore in the same location. She was currently running a pandemic pod school and worked for non-profit TreeFolks until 2019. She decided that her skills from the nonprofit world and her desire to make a positive difference translated well into the bookseller’s role. “It was an opportunity to create a meaningful place that somehow helps us heal,” she recalls, “not only from the pandemic but also from the Black Lives Matter protests, the political environment we’re all swimming in.” . It felt like doing a healing and good thing.”
Settling in the South Austin area made sense as a starting point for Perkins’ goals with Reverie, as she describes it as “a little bit more of a neighborhood feel.” She already lives there with her family, who all help run the bookshop. Perkins credits her wife’s dedication to helping out at the store in addition to a day job as one of the main reasons the lights stay on. “She loves being a part of it, you know,” says Perkins. “It gives so much meaning to all of us.” Her son and daughter also help, although her son is more interested in the store’s business and marketing and her daughter painted the bathroom murals.
Courtesy of Reverie Books
Another reason South Austin is a good fit for Reverie is its proximity to Austin Community College and Crockett High School, as Perkins has gone to great lengths to make the bookstore a welcoming place for young people. Each semester, she hires a paid high school intern to teach them the basics of running a business. In what she calls the “educational linchpin” of the position, the intern also runs Reverie’s Young Adult Banned Book Club, a group where teens get together to discuss books Felix always afterwards by Kacen Callender or Korean Graphic Novel Forbidden Book Club which not only offer them new perspectives to understand, but also provide a safe space for children to engage with material currently threatened by Texas conservative wrath.
“It also helps create a kind of third sense of community for them,” explains Perkins. “T-Concept of the third place [is] You’re home and you have school or work and then it’s nice to have an extra community. I think the kind of kids that are drawn to something like a banned book club have a lot in common, and they’re all wonderful young people.”
It’s not just young adults who have found solace in the community-focused bookstore, Perkins says, as older people have come to recover from current events. “I looked at this woman,” she says, “and she bought all these books of poetry. She said these were all gifts for employees who were leaving, and I thought, “That’s a lot of employees leaving at once, are you alright?” And it turns out she had run the Planned Parenthood department who actually performed abortions, and they were all fired.” Perkins speaks of more situations where people opened up between the bookshelves and says that’s why she got into the bookstore business in the first place.
“I’ll admit that bookstores aren’t initially a profitable business financially,” she says, “and I always knew it would look more like a non-profit organization than a money-making business, right?” But then again, it wasn’t really there for that. It was for the community. It was to give something back. It was about creating these kinds of warm spaces for people.”
Perkins’ ultimate goal for Reverie is to move to a large physical space and offer even more community service as a functioning nonprofit organization. For now, though, she’s ready to celebrate the start of something special with everyone. Awards, music from several jazz bands, the Crockett High School Marching Band and more will serve to welcome a grand opening that is a year in the making. “We’re just going to throw a party,” says Perkins, “and celebrate that we started and actually built this bookstore in the middle of a pandemic.”
Reverie Books is located at 5330 Menchaca Road. The grand opening celebrations begin at 10am in-store, with outdoor activities beginning at 4pm and lasting until 10pm. Bring a chair!