A Sanctuary for Books

Welter’s Etta Brandt visits The Ivy Bookshop’s beautiful new location. Join her for a festive tour, and book your browsing appointment anytime.

Anyone in Baltimore who loves to look at and buy books in-person knows about The Ivy Bookshop, the little gem (2,200 total square feet) on Falls Road at Lake Avenue. Months before the pandemic, it was announced that The Ivy would move a few blocks south on Falls Road to a bigger (3,800 total square feet) location. Then Covid-19 shut everything down. Books could still be ordered through The Ivy.

image courtesy of the Ivy Bookshop Facebook

More recently it became evident that there was construction going on at the new Ivy address: 5928 Falls Road.

I emailed the store’s owner, Emma Snyder, with a long-shot request to get a quick tour of the new site and, to my delight, she agreed.

The new Ivy Bookshop is located in the free-standing structure that housed the Divine Life church, a meditation community. Two features of the previous church are distinctly suited to The Ivy’s purposes. First, the sanctuary room, with its high ceiling and many windows, has been converted into a “sanctuary for books” (Ms. Snyder’s words) of every kind – shelves and shelves of them. Ms. Snyder said that many people have “commented on how much larger the new retail space feels. My sense is that this is because it’s longer and more open, so it feels much more spacious.” Actually, the retail space of both the old and the new shops is about the same: 1,800 square feet.

Second, the three-acre property in back of the new store has meandering gravel meditation paths and seven separate meditation gardens. There is even a gazebo. This space will be used for The Ivy’s outside events as well as for those who purchase books inside and want to come outside and start reading in a natural setting.

Other features of the new shop include a second-floor multipurpose room that can be used by book clubs, writing groups, or rented out for other literary purposes. Also, staff space includes an office, kitchen, and bathroom. Outside, under the sanctuary, there is a covered patio with picnic tables. In the future this area could host book fairs or local makers selling their wares.

Flash forward to December: The Ivy is now fully moved in but, because of Covid-19, there could be no grand opening. Ms. Snyder said guests may arranged scheduled browsing sessions. While there can be no in-person events inside for the rest of 2020, The Ivy will experiment with a few small-scale outdoor happenings.

A dream worthy of any book lover: Going into the new location’s “sanctuary for books,” picking out a book, buying it, and then going out back to the gazebo to start reading it.

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