Pandemic Perseverance Takes Woman From Free Little Library to Storefront in Des Moines

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DES MOINES, Iowa — A good book can become a passport to far away places. Soon-to-be Storyhouse Bookpub in Des Moines’ East Village has a journey of perseverance. “The thing I love most about the idea of owning a bookstore is it’s kind of a magical space,” said Abigail Paxton, owner of Storyhouse Bookpub.

Originally from Iowa, Paxton and her husband moved to Windsor Heights from Colorado in 2019 to pursue her bookstore ownership dreams and received her LLC in March of 2020. Weeks later, the pandemic shuttered doors of businesses across the country. “It was a hard moment,” said Paxton.

With no real option to open a store Paxton didn’t give up. Instead she transformed her garage into a bookstore. Paxton said, “A bookstore to me isn’t necessarily needing four walls. It’s more about what you do around books. It’s the way you start conversations around books.”

Outdoor story time in her backyard in the fall and holiday gift shopping events in the winter with space heaters to keep customers warm. “Bookstores have this ability to bring people together in a different way,” said Paxton. The creativity, brought on by the pandemic, spurred success. “There’s a narrative out there that the written word in book form is going away with all the technology now,” said Paxton.

This June, being exposed to the elements will take a backseat to Storyhouse Bookpub’s own brick and mortar next to Raygun on Grand Avenue in the East Village. “There is something about creating an atmosphere for people and in a spot where people know you are always going to be. It’s a nice element to have,” Paxton said.

The 400-square-foot store can trace it’s roots to a little free library in the front of Paxton’s Windsor Heights home. It provided a spark for book lovers that’s now ignited into a small business. “I want to maintain the storyhouse roots in having a pop-up element and pivot and go to all kinds of places in Des Moines,” said Paxton, who is refusing to let the pandemic finish her story. She is determined to write more pages. “Look at your business plan and see what you love the most and what you can still do without maybe some of the things you thought you would have,” said Paxton.

Paxton says she will continue to host pop-up events throughout the metro. Customers can also find her miniature book stores inside MoMere in Valley Junction or Dreiburg Coffee in the East Village.

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