Books Are Magic

Jen's Journal

Nov 21st, 2018

Books Are Magic is everything you want in a bookstore. Cozy, buzzing with energy and overflowing with stacks and piles of one amazing book after another, with plenty of nooks to peruse your finds. It is the brainchild of writer Emma Straub and designer Michael Fusco-Straub and we nearly died of excitement when it opened catty-corner to Bird on Smith Street late last spring. I have known Emma for years as an avid reader of her books and as a neighborhood fixture and Bird shopper. She has lived off and on in the neighborhood since 2004 with stints away in graduate school, and put down roots permanently in 2016 to be within walking distance to her beloved bookstore BookCourt where she worked from 2009-2013. When Emma and her husband Michael found out in the fall of 2016 that BookCourt was closing after 35 years in business, they knew right away without a moment passing that it was their job to continue the work that BookCourt started. "I knew I could do it. I knew Michael could do it. I knew I knew the neighborhood and the customers better than anyone." 

They immediately began to view available commercial spaces. I remember talking to Emma about it in the early stages of looking and planning and trying to be as encouraging as possible (especially pushing them to settle on Smith Street) while still being realistic about the demands of owning a small business. Every space they looked at was a "boring, vanilla box" until they walked into their current home at 225 Smith Street. "As soon as we walked in I could see it. It had personality, it felt great, it was warm with brick walls and beams and corners and nooks. I could see where the kids could hang out downstairs so they couldn't run out." The fact that Bird was across the street and Stinky was just down the block sealed the deal. "There was a steady stream of people coming to this block. I knew if they would come here and walk in the door of Bird they would come and walk in the door here. Foot traffic is enormous. I feel so lucky to have a business in New York." With almost daily special events programming, their readings, talks and book club meetings have already become integral to the community. And how has owning and running a bookstore impacted her writing? "I spend an average of two days a week in the shop and three days a week writing at The Wing in Dumbo." She is managing to find a work-work balance because she just finished a first draft of her new novel. Any spoilers? "It's about three generations of women living in the Hudson Valley, the mistakes they make as parents and the small things that they end up holding on to and shaping their whole lives." We will try to wait patiently for publication in 2020.

Photo by Spencer Starnes

In terms of fashion, Emma is a writer, a bookstore owner and the mother of two small boys, so everything has to be easy and ideally able to throw in the washing machine. She loves to mix and match prints and bright colors and "is not afraid to look ridiculous" which is one of my favorite things about her style, though she always looks amazing. Her latest favorite is the bubble gum pink Rachel Comey Oust Dress, which she lovingly describes as a giant pink square. "It's the most amazing version of the dress Molly Ringwald should've made at the end of Pretty in Pink."

Bird Brooklyn is thrilled to host a Books Are Magic pop-up selection of memoirs and cookbooks written by women this holiday season.