Independent bookstores survive in Ithaca.

Caroline Tompkins / The New York Times

Independent bookstores survive in Ithaca.

October 20, 2019

When One Bookstore Door Closes, Another Opens

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Laura Larson ’85, an Ithaca High School and Cornell University alumna, moved to Ithaca at nine years old. She recalls her love for reading and frequenting the plethora of bookstores available in Ithaca during her childhood — because of this, she dreamed of opening a bookstore someday.

Since graduating, Larson has lived between her two homes in Seattle, WA and Ithaca, NY. The scene has changed, Larson notes, and over the last 35 years, independent bookstores have been closing around Ithaca — going from approximately 10 to 5 in 2015 — and nationally because of competition with Amazon and large chains such as Barnes and Noble.

One of the area’s book staples, The Bookery, is currently selling off stock to close its doors for good after 45 years.

Despite this, Larson will be fulfilling her dream by opening Odyssey Bookstore, an independent bookstore. Larson believes that the competition between Amazon and large chains has created a demand for the sense of community that is offered by independent bookstores.

The store will open at 115 W. Green Street, and Larson anticipates that construction on Odyssey will end sometime in early 2020.

“I want a store where I may not have, you know, a million options under every category but everyone can find something that resonates with them,” Larson said.

She hopes to foster an inclusive space for all readers at Odyssey and create a setting where diverse groups of people can come together and engage in dialogue.

Larson was motivated to pursue this because of her upbringing in Ithaca.

“When I grew up her it was a very bifurcated community,” Larson said, “The sections of Ithaca, as small as it is, often don’t talk to each other and don’t really interact with each other.”

Using this part of her Ithaca experience, Larson hopes that Odyssey Bookstore will foster unity between Ithacans. “I want it to be that space where your kids are reading books with my kids and I’m joining a book group with someone I wouldn’t have met otherwise.”

Larson has already been connecting with the Ithaca community. After speaking to people, Larson hopes to host author events, book groups, and poetry slams and is open to other events wanted by the community.

“I just think a community is better when it knows how to talk to each other and have conversations,” Larson said. She hopes that Odyssey will bring Ithacans together regardless of their differences.