The week leading up to the opening of Word Up last year was a week that a lot of people thought we were crazy. As we posted a long time ago, this is what the space looked like when we first moved in:
We moved in the night of June 13. Then we came back at 4pm on June 14, in case anyone showed up, because that was the day we were originally going to open. Someone came by all right, 4pm on the dot: Marilyn from the New York Times. Then came Mike on behalf of the Manhattan Times, with Carla of DNAinfo. Everyone had camera in hand, but all we had at the time was a big empty space and piles of boxes and bags.
It wasn’t till the next day when there was more interesting stuff to look at. . . .
As they painted the wall, people came in and asked us questions.
—A bookstore? A bookstore? Here? A bookstore?
—Don’t open a bookstore. You gotta open something HOT.
—Yeah, good luck with that.
These unsolicited comments led Dister to make the sign that many have since snapped photos of:
Will, Robin, and others cleaned, and Vern processed consignment books. Alison made sure people were eating. Dj Boy ran around and took pictures, left the shop to take pictures of some other event, then returned to take more pictures. Neighbors—strangers—walked by, sat in our few chairs, and watched, and talked. Slowly it dawned on us that we should get their emails and phone numbers . . . to ask them to come back the next day to help. Some of them did, and have been helping out as Word Up collective members ever since.
On June 16, it was time to get serious about furniture. After all, the grand opening was to be June 17! With the help of Bob and Mino from People’s Theatre Project, we had selected some furniture from Materials for the Arts the previous week, but finding help for the pickup was proving difficult. In the end, Inju from Kaboom Press helped with some heavy lifting in Long Island City, and with guiding the goods into the Craigslisted truck.
Back at the shop, Sandy kept watch, then helped unload once we arrived. A whole load of neighbors showed up to move the furniture into place. People who came to put their books or art on consignment were set to work immediately! At the end of the night, though, there were still massive piles of boxes all over the place. But we did need to sleep . . .
To celebrate our anniversary, we have commemorated some of these early icons. If you donate at various levels, you can get a T-shirt or button, showing the rolly cases that we have pulled and pushed out with much effort day after day over the past year, signaling to all who walk past our storefront that there are books within.
And we made magnets so that you can stick a bit of proof of our beginnings onto your fridge:
Now that we’ve been here for almost a year, we’ve built up a whole new set of iconic images based on the people, books, and experiences that have comprised Word Up over the past year. We hope we’ll be able to unveil new things at next year’s anniversary, and all the ones beyond—because we plan to be around for those, unlike what we thought at this time last year, when we thought this was a 1-month project, a transitory activity, rather than a real, live manifestation of all our neighborhood has wanted for so long, and has worked toward building for a year, with real sweat and spirit.