This House of Books, a new Billings community-owned bookstore, has signed a lease on a 2,800 square foot space in downtown Billings. The building, originally the Billings Masonic Temple, is located at 224 North Broadway at the corner of 3rd Avenue North across the street from the Alberta Bair Theater.
“This location will be perfect for us,” said General Manager & CEO Gary Robson. “Our proximity to the Parmly Billings Library makes it easy to collaborate on book events, the Farmer’s Market will be a perfect showcase for our tea bar, and it’s a gorgeous building.”
The space leased for the store is significantly bigger than Robson’s previous store in Red Lodge, and he intends to stock more books and a broader selection of games.
This House of Books is going for a historic look. They will be ripping out the existing wall-to-wall carpeting and replacing it with hardwood floors and using rustic shelving and fixtures. They will be carrying the theme through in other aspects of store décor.
Since This House of Books is organized as a co-op, they are relying on community involvement and volunteers. One of the first volunteer activities will be a painting party, and volunteers are already helping with fundraising, podcasts, and social media.
The funding for the store comes from sales of shares. Member/owners receive benefits depending on their level of investment, which include discounts on books & tea, advance notice of events, end-of-year rebates, access to advance review copies of upcoming books, and the opportunity to try new tea blends before they are released to the public.
“We haven’t yet reached our funding goals,” Robson explained, “largely because we didn’t have a location or an opening date. Now the progress is more visible, with a completed business plan, a full board of directors, a building, a projected mid-September grand opening, and well over 100 member/owners.”
Momentum is also building on events and social media. Robson is scheduling book signings and talks as well as poetry readings, tea tastings, and tabletop game nights where people can try out new board, dice, and card games.
“This new space will give us room to significantly expand the tea selection,” explained Tea Bar Manager Gwen Gunn. “We’re going to be carrying most of what was at Red Lodge Books & Tea, and doing more house blends, more exotic teas, and more herbs and spices. The sidewalk seating will also be great in the summer.”
Gunn expects to open with almost 200 different varieties of teas and herbs sourced from all over the world and blended on-premises in Billings. The tea bar will sell teaware and loose tea and also serve tea by the cup: hot, iced, tea lattes, boba tea, matcha shots, and a variety of tea-based specialty drinks.
“Education is an important part of what a community bookstore does,” Robson added, “and that applies to a local tea shop as well. We will be hosting tea tastings and classes where both new and experienced tea drinkers can learn more about styles, varieties, and techniques.”