The other day on Capitol Hill, a woman walking down Pine Street stopped at the entrance of Botticelli Books, looked up into the narrow store, and said, somewhat goofily, "Cool!" That's really the only response you can have when a new bookstore unexpectedly opens in your neighborhood. It's an act of optimism for someone to open a bookstore anywhere, but opening one in this particular spot (a couple blocks away from Confounded Books and Out of the Closet Bookstore, and a couple minutes' walk from Half Price Books, Twice Sold Tales, and Bailey/Coy Books, all of which are great bookstores) seems basically crazy. But also, you know, cool. Botticelli Books has been open for a month now. (It's between Blue Bottle Art Gallery and Store and a storefront that will soon be Jive Time Records.) Botticelli's owner, Kenneth Strong, who used to sell used books on the web, got a good deal on a painter ("It had to be repainted--it was kind of trashed") and a good deal on a cash register, some shelves, and a huge stack of old Grantas from a bookstore in Wallingford that recently went out of business. (That happens all the time with bookstores.) Over the weekend, I stopped into Botticelli Books to find out how Strong plans to survive.

Is the rent here high?

I think it's high enough, yeah. It's not a huge space either.

Seems risky to open a bookstore these days.

Well, it's a used bookstore, so it's a low- overhead business. There's not a lot of money in it, but it's low risk.

Still, there are so many bookstores on Capitol Hill already.

There are a lot of people on Capitol Hill, and a lot of people who read. A lot of people prefer an independent bookstore. Half Price Books is the closest [used bookstore], but some people don't want to go in there. Is this your first time here? I'm still getting organized.

Yeah. How are the books organized?

It's not logical and I'm still working on it. I haven't labeled the sections yet, either.

At home I organize my books by brilliance.

I suppose I could do that but that would be a little confusing. I want to read more of these books, but it's kind of daunting.

Where did you get the name Botticelli?

Oh, like the artist. When I was out buying books, this guy had a print of The Birth of Venus. It was like 8 feet wide and 15 feet tall--I don't know exactly. Really huge. I was thinking it'd look good on that wall. But he wouldn't talk his price down.

Ah, capitalism.

You know, they're opening a vinyl store next door. You should go ask them why there are so many CD stores on Capitol Hill.

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