Lowell’s newest local independent bookstore is opening at Mill No. 5 in September and owner Kristen McDonie has been busy painting her new space and choosing what books will make it into the shop.
Owning a bookstore has been a path of personal growth for Kristen. She had always questioned if she had the right temperament to be an entrepreneur; but, if she were to open a business, she knew it would be a bookstore, as this is where she likes to spend her free time. Kristen says, “A local bookstore can really give you the idea of the flavor of the town, the community, the personalities and the history.” With Lowell’s rich history and its reputation as a hub for college education, she was surprised and frankly, disappointed to find there were no independent bookstores when she moved to the city.
Having to teach remotely during the pandemic gave Kristen more time at home and more time to think through the process and possibility of opening a bookstore in Lowell. She eventually thought, “If not now, then when?” She began testing the viability and the need, by opening an online bookstore at the end of 2020. The site was successful almost from the beginning and the feedback from her customers was so positive and encouraging, she began the process of finding retail space for a physical bookstore. The website has been and will continue to be a place where customers can order from her curated selection or request special orders.
Kristen says of her decision to bring her shop to Mill No. 5, “Becoming a part of Mill No. 5 was frankly not just the most interesting option, I think it was the most realistic option and the option that offered me the most flexibility and also the most support. To be a part of the community [here] to be part of the culture [here]it is a place that really feeds creativity.” She is hoping that like other shops at the mill, being here will allow her to start small and grow at a natural pace. A soft opening will take place in August and a grand opening will be scheduled in September once she has opened officially.
While the space on the 4th floor may not be as big as a chain bookstore she plans on offering new and used books in every genre with a little bit of something for everyone. Encouraging and educating the community about buying from local stores instead of big box stores and online retailers is an uphill battle. But she says it all comes down to the choice of the individual. In her experience, however, her customers want their community to thrive. “Buying from your local bookstore ensures that that money stays in your community and it supports not just the bookseller but all of the other businesses who are trying to keep the community rich and full of options. Buying a book from Amazon sends a billionaire to space.”