How did Musaraña manage to become the best bookstore in the country in 2022?

Alejandro Bidegaray and Julia Bustos in Musaraña (Télam)
Alejandro Bidegaray and Julia Bustos in Musaraña (Télam)

The bookstore Shrewlocated in the Buenos Aires party of Vicente López, was distinguished with the Prize for the Bookseller’s Work of the Publishers’ Fair (FED) for carrying out activities that go beyond the sale of books, operating as a publishing house specializing in comics, positioning itself as a meeting space with the reading community and consolidating itself as a cultural powerhouse, where those who attend can “find what they were not looking for but they needed.

“Beyond the sale of books, we are a publisher dedicated to comics and graphic experimentation for both adults and children, with the collection shrew“, bill Alexander Bidegaraybookseller and creator of the award-winning place, located at General José María Paz 1530, in an old property called Florida House.

Although in the beginning the curatorship of Shrew focused mainly on national and international comics, now it has a wide variety of independent publishers such as Sigilo, Godot, Caja Negra, Chai Editora, Santos Locos Poesía, and for this aspect, among others, it was awarded the “Award for Book Work”. “It seems to us that it is a very good award, that it is well thought out and that it returns within the same chain, so it sets all sectors in motion,” says the bookstore Julia Bustos.

For Bidegaray, the award is “particularly important” for encapsulating “the recognition of colleagues”. “One in the bookstore is recognized by customers every day, because many people profess their love for you or say things like ‘it’s good that you’re here.’ Bookstores become small beacons in the neighborhoods”, says the founder of Shrewbut “having the recognition of authors, editors, editorial brokers, journalists, who are people who work every day with the same subject as you, also gives you a lot of joy.”

The bookstore is located at Gral. José María Paz 1530, Vicente López
The bookstore is located at Gral. José María Paz 1530, Vicente López

A few days after receiving the award, in Shrew at least 25 boxes can be seen spread out behind the counter. “The prize is 350,000 pesos that can be spent within the FED itself with a limit on the amount of money that you can spend per publisher, so that yes or yes it is equitable,” he says. busts and, as he lifts the flaps of the boxes full of copies, he adds: “Every award carries a great responsibility so we tried to buy some new materials and other books that we were missing, from Gog & Magog, some from Under the Moon, others from Stealth or Corregidor”.

in the old house, Shrew share the space with Florida House Wines“a proposal for a small wine cellar with the same independent spirit, and soma, a cafeteria”, according to Bidegaray.

“We opened it with my dad, Juan Carlos. At that time, my brother was giving music classes and doing events. My mother had a photography gallery. Each project grew through different branches, but it is still of a family nature in an old house”, recalls the bookseller about the origins of the undertaking. The reading public that visits the space can also find an outdoor patio equipped with tables and chairs.

bustsa bookstore that joined the project in 2017, provides a piece of information that it considers “important” and that is that Shrew is from Pisces, since the opening of the bookstore coincides with the season of that zodiacal sign: “We feel identified with Pisces, because we are very sensitive, and also, it has something magical that is managing to take what happens to people to turn it into a book,” says the bookseller.

The bookstore shares the space with a small wine cellar and a coffee shop
The bookstore shares the space with a small wine cellar and a coffee shop

Also, “Shrew is the name of a small mammal”, says busts. The animal is similar to the mole and digs burrows that are lined with vegetation. “The bookstore is like a cave, a refuge”, he observes and adds: “People enter and immediately feel at ease. In addition, the wood provides warmth and a very specific detail that Alejandro – his co-worker of his – made is that he painted it black. That makes it more of a burrow.”

“For me, it is very important that people who enter a bookstore want to stay. Because if not, there is no way for the person to find what they did not come looking for but the bookstore has to offer. If the person enters, he wants to stay and can chat, he begins to find what he was not looking for but needed”, he considers busts about the small and warm design of Shrew.

The bookstore, decorated with old buckets transformed into lamps that make its central table shine, also has the particularity of operating, according to one of its founders, as a “cultural producer”. With the aim of promoting and producing culture, Bidegaray Together with his team, he carried out “a lot of parallel activities in the bookstore and outside of it, around graphic arts, with illustration and drawing exhibitions.”

In this way, the bookseller curated two festivals: the zine-festivalmade in conjunction with the Ricardo Rojas Cultural Centerand the Sudestada Festival of drawing and illustrationin the Recoleta Cultural Centertogether with the illustrators Ezekiel Garcia Y Angela Corti. “Later we put together other mission activities around the comic at foreign festivals like the Ficomic of Barcelonain Mexico with the Big room and other tours that brought together the national cartoon scene,” he adds.

Julia Bustos in Musaraña (Télam)
Julia Bustos in Musaraña (Télam)

at the Fed, Shrew find “a place to hug people,” he says busts and defines this fair as a place where “people line up for three hours and enter in a good mood.”

On what the “library work” implies, busts reflects: “The bookseller has a sensitive responsibility, because he tries to understand what the reader needs and, furthermore, it is a cultural responsibility regarding what one wants to be promoted”. In this sense, he takes up the metaphor of the bookseller as a “medium”. “Being a ‘medium’ means that a person asks for something and the bookseller/ra has to transform what he/she asks of you, which is abstract, into something material, which is a book, with a cover, spine and pages”, he explains.

During the pandemic, busts He acknowledges that this practice “was extreme”, because, as the bookstore was closed, they had to go for a very limited selection of books and offer them to customers at the door. “People gave themselves up. It was great”, says the bookseller, highlighting the confidence of her clientele during this period.

“Within the culture, we were the only ones to benefit from being declared ‘essential’ so we worked through the entire pandemic. It was a big challenge because people couldn’t get in. We did not have an online store so we had to convert our way of recommending by phone, WhatsApp and Instagram. The way of working was radically transformed, it was assimilated much more to an algorithm than to the tremendous humanity that relationships in a bookstore entail”, he recalls Bidegaray about the challenges faced during the health emergency.

Julia Bustos in Musaraña (Télam)
Julia Bustos in Musaraña (Télam)

Despite the difficulties, Shrew grew up. “Although we had a lot of clients, we added a lot more. We almost had a major stress peak, but we survived,” he jokes. busts. For her, the neighborhood bookstores were revalued during the health emergency.

“Many people who lived two blocks away got to know us during the pandemic by searching for bookstores on Google Maps. Suddenly, the people who went downtown and visited the chains couldn’t or didn’t want to go. Then, they began to move within the neighborhood. Those who were going to bigger bookstores realized there was another type of bookstore they could visit,” he notes.

For bustsall the libraries are important but they are different models: the “chain” ones work on what they call “the table”, they work on the novelties, on the other hand the independent ones -such as Shrew– they do it “on the shelf, on the room in general, on the editorial fund”.

“We have the news but we also have a lot of other things, we don’t just work on ‘the book that has to be sold this month’. We do have them because that allows us to have a cushion for this to be a profitable business, if we don’t have it it’s because we think it’s crap”, analyzes the bookstore about the different profiles that are configured in the sale of books.

“We not only make customers or sales, we generate readers, who then go to other bookstores. That is why I consider that businesses do not compete with each other, but rather form a cultural circuit with each other”, he synthesizes busts.

Source: Télam SE


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