Out with the old floor…

As you can see in the “before” picture, the future home of This House of Books looks very much like what it used to be: an MSU-Billings extension facility. Since we’re going for a historic prohibition-era Montana look, that blue carpet was the first thing to go!

Before we started our renovations, the building still had that classroom look to it.
Before we started our renovations, the building still had that “classroom” look to it.

Super-volunteers Barbara Bernheim and John Felten jumped in to help, and ripped up 2,800 feet of carpeting mostly by themselves. There are no words for how much we appreciate that kind of help. That’s what a community-owned bookstore is all about!

John totes a roll of freshly ripped-up carpeting.
John totes a roll of freshly ripped-up carpeting.
John and Barbara stand triumphantly before the giant pile of old carpet.
John and Barbara stand triumphantly before the giant pile of old carpet.

Join Our Team!

We Are Hiring banner

If you love books and tea and you’re looking for work with an employee-centered, community-owned business, we need to talk!

We currently have the following positions open (click the links for details):

This House of Books is an equal opportunity employer. We do not discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex and gender (including sexual preference, pregnancy and childbirth), disabilities (physical or mental), age, citizenship, or genetic information.

Submit résumés by email to Gary@ThisHouseOfBooks.com


What a lineup!

The event calendar is starting to come together, and we have some awesome events in the works! As soon as we have our grand opening date firmed up, we’ll post the full calendar with Facebook event pages for each.

We also have some events that are confirmed, but don’t have dates set yet with authors like Gary Robson, Randy Tracy, and others.

Here are the author events so far:

  • Oct 06, Sneed Collard, Firebirds and Hopping Ahead of Climate Change
  • Oct 08, High Plains Poetry Finalist panel with
    Robert Currie, The Days Run Away
    Juliana Aragon Fatula, Red Canyon Falling on Churches
    Diane Glancy, Report to the Department of the Interior, and
    Lois Red Elk, Why I Returne to Makoce
  • Oct 08, High Plains Contemporary Short Story Panel with
    Patrick Hicks, The Collector of Names
    Jerry McGahan, The Deer Walking Upside Down, and
    Joe Wilkins, Far Enough: A Western in Fragments
  • Oct 09, High Plains Sunday Brunch with Linda Sexson, David Romtveldt, and William Hjorstberg
  • Oct 09, Keith McCafferty, Buffalo Jump Blues
  • Oct 09, Pete Fromm, The Names of the Stars
  • Oct 12, Jon Switzer, Lost in Montana
  • Oct 14, Craig Lancaster, Edward Unspooled
  • Oct 18, Vicki Tapia, Somebody Stole My Iron: A Family Memoir of Dementia
  • Oct 21, Michele Corriel, Membrane
  • Oct 25, Jamie Ford, Songs of Willow Frost
  • Oct 26, David Quammen, Yellowstone: A Journey Through America’s Wild Heart
  • Oct 28, Sean McDaniel, Criminal Zoo
  • Oct 29, Susan Adrian, The Dark at the End
  • Nov 01, Desdemona Gunn, Biomancy
  • Nov 04, Scott McMillion, Mark of the Grizzly
  • Nov 09, Kent Davis, The Changer’s Key
  • Nov ??, Aaron Parrett, Montana Americana Music: Boot Stomping in Big Sky Country
  • Nov 12, Lynn Boughey, Harry Potter and the Art of Spying, young adult edition
  • Nov 17, John Clayton, Stories from Montana’s Enduring Frontier
  • Nov 22, Sid Gustafson, Swift Dam
  • Nov 25, Elisa Lorello, The Second First Time
  • Nov 30, Stella Fong, Historic Restaurants of Billings and Billings Food
  • Dec 05, Janet Fox, The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle
  • Dec 06, Allen M. Jones, A Bloom of Bones
  • Dec 17, Jack Day, Gramma and Grampa’s Adventures in Yellowstone National Park

In addition, every Thursday will be game night at the store, and we’re working on poetry readings, art shows, comedy nights, live music, and more!

We have a building!

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.”

Masonic Temple exterior

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.”

See what we’re up to at our June open house

This House of Books open house header

We are holding an open house on Thursday, June 30 where the community and potential member/owners can take a look at the building, sample the teas that will be served at the tea bar, and meet many of the people involved in the project.

The store will be located in downtown Billings at the corner of 2nd and 29th, in the old Wendy’s building. The open house will run from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

The mission of This House of Books is to build a cultural hub in downtown Billings for book lovers. To that end, we are selling shares to both members of the physical community (Billings) and the literary community at large. The store will host author events (signings & talks), poetry readings, tea tastings, book clubs, writers’ groups, children’s story times, game nights, comedy nights, acoustic music nights, and more.

“Writers have responded enthusiastically to a community-owned bookstore in Billings,” said Board President Carrie La Seur, “and quite a few have purchased shares. We’ll be highlighting their books at the open house and in the store when it opens.”

La Seur is a published author herself, as are fellow board member Precious McKenzie and General Manager Gary Robson.

“Our inventory will be a carefully-curated collection of books that fit the community,” Robson explained.”As a full-service bookstore, we’ll have a little of everything, but the focus will be on regional authors and topics, educational books, nature & science, classics, and a strong children’s section. We’ll also be stocking a great selection of tabletop games.”

The store will also feature a tea bar with over 150 varieties of tea sourced from all over the world. 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. There will be plenty of seating for customers to enjoy a cup of tea and a good book.

Event Details

When: Thursday, June 30 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Where: 2906 2nd Ave N, Billings (the old Wendy’s building)
Refreshments: A selection of gourmet teas and light snacks

A Dashing Party for This House of Books

What could be a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than in evening gloves, sipping wine and celebrating the campaign launch for This House of Books, the new Billings bookstore cooperative? Last Sunday I was honored to present at Barb Gunn and Edward Barta’s Downton Abbey-themed bookstore party. They truly brought in the class, offering perfectly crustless cucumber tea sandwiches, Pimms and Lady Edith cocktails. Edward and his stepson, the ever dashing Gabe, manned the bar with bow ties and polite offerings of many choosings, while Barb flitted about with a pearl head wrap and a Mary Crawley beaded dress.

Me (far right) talking about the co-op as the rest of the team looks on. From left: Board member Precious McKenzie, Hostess Barb Gunn, and General Manager Gary Robson.
Me (far right) talking about the co-op as the rest of the team looks on. From left: Board member Precious McKenzie, Hostess Barb Gunn, and General Manager Gary Robson.

The launch of This House of Books is truly reason to celebrate with such class! This spring I’ve been fortunate to serve as the Treasurer and Secretary of the new independent bookstore set to open in September this year in downtown Billings. Spearheaded by Carrie LaSeur, local author, attorney, advocate, in-charge mom, and of course, my friend, the bookstore grew out a community-fueled discussion about the need for an independent bookstore in Billings. Two years later, with a board of three and a kick-ass cowboy and local celebrity/author named Gary Robson, we’re hitting the pavement (and sometimes plains), running. In order to open our doors, we need members. Like any cooperative, our business plan’s recurring theme is in our members who invest in purchased shares. These purchases and investments are not only to open our doors, but to sustain the culture and future of downtown Billings. Our bookstore will offer a gathering place for book readers, art enthusiasts, tea lovers (did I mention the tea bar?!), and people who want to sit, talk, and enjoy being in a sometimes-quiet, sometimes-hip, downtown hub.

Some of the crowd on the patio, enjoying their libations and pondering how wonderful the new store will be!
Some of the crowd on the patio, enjoying their libations and pondering how wonderful the new store will be!

With support like last Sunday, we’re certain to raise the $250,000 needed to open in September. I presented the details to a lawn full of beautifully-dressed, truly proper ladies and gentlemen, all eager to learn more about the bookstore hype they’ve heard abuzz. Many thanks to those who took a costume break to write a check!

For those interested in learning about the different investor levels and opportunities, click here.

Nina Hernandez, board of directors
This House of Books