The next chapter in the story of Tattered Cover, Colorado's largest independent bookseller, begins next week when its new location opens in Westminster.

Fans of the storied retailer will surely celebrate the plot twist in store for them: Adult beverages at the Best Sellers Bar. It's the chain's fifth full-sized store, continuing an expansion that included a new store in 2021 at McGregor Square in Denver's Ballpark District, a kiosk at Park Meadows Shopping Center and another location on tap for a May opening in downtown Colorado Springs.

“The Tattered Cover is probably one of the strongest retail locations there — it’s central to the whole core project in my mind,” said Mary Beth Jenkins, president of the Laramie Co., which inked the deal with building owner the Thrash Group and the city of Westminster.

The new location at 8885 Westminster Blvd. is in the same building as the state’s second Origin Hotel.

“Communities are more micro than they’ve been in a really, really long time,” said Tattered Cover CEO Kwame Spearman. “That presents an opportunity for a Tattered Cover-type institution to continue going to places” like Westminster.

And Tattered Cover prides itself on creating community.

Its first location opened in 1971 in Denver’s Cherry Creek North. As it became the state’s largest locally owned bookstore, it gained a reputation as a community gathering place, tourist destination and hub for independent literary culture.

Spearman, a Denver native, and other investors purchased Tattered Cover in December 2020 from book industry veterans Len Vlahos and Kristen Gilligan. The husband-and-wife team had taken over Tattered Cover in 2017 from longtime owner Joyce Meskis.

“Joyce Meskis literally created the notion that you should go to a bookstore not just to purchase books, but also to have an experience,” Spearman said. “So having the incredibly comfortable chairs and taking three or four books off the shelves, but maybe only buying one or two, but feeling really comfortable about what you’re buying. The Tattered Cover originated that. So we think the opportunity to have a glass of wine, or cocktail, or beer in accompaniment of that is just a no-brainer.”

It also helps with profit margins — which on books are razor thin, he said.

Jenkins said landlords like the Thrash Group or McGregor Square realize that, and keep lease rates reasonable to have a draw like the Tattered Cover.

“Kwame likes to say when they raise the minimum wage, they don’t change the price printed on the book sleeve,” Jenkins said.

Spearman said bookstores have had to add things like calendars, pens, T-shirts and puzzles to the mix, too.

“The reality is the book business, by itself, is a very hard business,” Spearman said.

The location in downtown Westminster is basically at “Main and Main,” said John Burke, the city’s downtown development and construction manager.

“The Tattered Cover is such a staple for the Colorado community,” Burke said. “I grew up here and loved going to the Tattered Cover.”

It’s the site of the former Westminster Mall — one of the most popular in the state in the 1980s. But, like most indoor malls of that era, it languished and eventually closed. The city tried to find a master developer for the site, but “no one was investing in regional malls” in 2012, he said. So the city bought the land and became its own master developer.

“That way it would have staying power and could weather storms,” Burke said.

The new Tattered Cover will add to the uniqueness of the northwest corridor, he said.

“Between Denver and Boulder, there was a bit of (a) desert of cool, great places to eat and shop — so the city has enabled (an) entertainment district,” Burke said. “We are primed for explosive growth downtown.”

It’s across the street from an Alamo Drafthouse. There’s also a Westminster Alley food hall coming by Mark Shaker, who developed the Stanley Marketplace.

“Tattered Cover always wanted a north-side site,” Jenkins said. “I showed them several different sites, but this one was the strongest.”

When Spearman came in, he decided to add the wine bar into the design.

“He wants to provide a gathering place for all literary readers, whether that be children or adults,” Jenkins said.

Tattered Cover also has a children’s store in Aurora, one at Aspen Grove in Littleton, one at Union Station in downtown Denver, and at all three concourses at Denver International Airport.

“We’re going to keep growing,” Spearman said. “Each additional store we open can spit out that sort of margin that helps the financial viability of the business. … It’s all about the experience.”

Tattered Cover also plans to have local artists and members of the Westminster community provide programming.

“That’s when we start having conversations and topics that are relevant to the people who live in that area,” Spearman said. “Tattered Cover wants to be a catalyst.”

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