The trip for West Bank residents to buy a book just grew shorter.
The Wilson Book Gallery opened Saturday in the Westbank Center, the commercial row at The Aspens. The shop, the third book business in Jackson Hole, is an offshoot of Susie Temple’s Jackson Hole Book Trader, located in Jackson’s Powderhorn Mall.
Temple said growth on the West Bank was a big factor in encouraging her, along with what she sees as a growing reluctance of people to travel from there to town if they don’t have to — the traffic could be good for book sales, she said.
“I feel things are changing on the West Bank, and I feel this store really complements the Book Trader,” she said. “It’s a sister store.
“Ten years ago this wouldn’t have happened; this town wouldn’t have supported three bookstores. ... But it’s supported two for 20 years.”
Temple bought and remodeled Book Trader two years ago. She said business there is strong, in spite of stiff competition from the longtime Valley Bookstore in downtown Jackson. Book Trader was opened in 1998 by Dean Stayner, who later sold to Cindy Parker, who ran it for several years.
Temple worked for a time for Stayner, her only previous involvement in bookselling, though she “had been thinking about a bookstore in general since grad school.” Staffing Wilson Book Gallery will be Andrew Munz and Jessica Sell Chambers.
The shop is two doors from the new West Bank location of Persephone, the popular cafe and bakery that operates on East Broadway and has a location called Picnic on Maple Way near the “Y” intersection. Knowing the cafe’s loyal customers would be drawn to the area was a boost for Temple during planning.
“I knew Persephone was moving in,” she said. “That was important.”
Wilson Book Gallery is in space most recently used by the cafe Butter 2, a summer popup. Before that it was Ski Barre, a dance and exercise studio. The book shop has about 700 square feet of display and office.
The space, atypically for a bookstore, has two outside walls with big windows, which makes the white interior shine and the colors of the displayed books pop. The design was done by Jen Langston Interiors, which also handled the Book Trader makeover.
The focus is small: Compared with Book Trader’s 13,000 titles, the gallery opened with only about 700, which could go as high as 1,000. The stock is all new, unlike Book Trader, which also deals in used books.
The layout is also not the usual. No fiction and nonfiction or alphabetical order, but a quirky system of picks that might be as standard as subject or as unlikely as color or as practical as who might be the best reader for a particular book.
Some of the categories at opening were The Last of the Old West, Mothers, The Poles, Taking a Pause, Leonardo, Off White, Guides, Books for Her (or Him), Save the World, African American Writers, Box Sets, Wayfaring and Stories through Time. The booksellers also have sections for their own recommendations.
Munz is a Jackson native with experience at Valley Bookstore. He’s known as an actor and writer, creator of the “I Can Ski Forever” stage shows that skewer Jackson life. He led the selection of the Book Gallery stock.
Winnowing a likely section from the Book Trader shelves “took a lot of thought,” he said, “and every week it’s going to change.
“When we stock we want to find titles that are obscure or authors we didn’t know much about,” Munz said, “to encourage browsing.” The goal is to link people “not to the one book you need, but the book you didn’t think you needed.”
Making the selection, he said, “was a little frantic” in the days leading up to the opening. especially considering that Book Trader founder Stayner stockpiled used books for three years in his Los Angeles garage before moving to Jackson and opening for business.
Chambers has been a candidate in recent Jackson council elections. Though her bookselling life began only in the past year, she feels comfortable.
“I’m a great lover of books,” she said. “It’s a great job, and I love helping people talk about and find books. ... I like to put things in front of people’s eyes they might not see” otherwise.
Temple adds to her love of books the importance she thinks they have in the culture and the good they do. Getting books and people together means that the book trade “has a social mission” to perform.
Wilson Book Gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. You can call 201-5891.