As if battling to keep a small business alive during the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t hard enough, Salt Lake City bookseller Ken Sanders had to relocate his beloved antiquarian bookshop after development pressure forced him from the space he’s occupied for 24 years. He had been expecting a notice to vacate for quite a while. Now he’s happy to say the bookstore finally found a home at The Leonardo.
“At age 70, most folks think I am absolutely crazy to do this,” says Sanders. He sees this opportunity to move his shop to The Leonardo as a chance to reinvent himself one last time. “The folks at the Leo have been more than welcoming and I think there is a potential for us to accomplish a lot artistically and culturally together,” he says.
When I asked Sanders how he’ll maintain the character of his high-spirited bookshop inside a museum, he says, “I think our spaces at The Leo will give us a chance to class up our act and make better presentations and curations.”
He’s especially looking forward to launching their new 300-plus square foot children’s area on the main floor of The Leonardo. “This will be a paradise for children and I will host monthly live children’s readings when Covid permits us to.”
The old library reading room in the sub-basement is where the used and rare books will be housed. Sanders is certain that some amount of chaos will still reign. “Down in the catacombs, the spirit of Ken Sanders Rare Books will live on.“
One exciting aspect about moving to The Leonardo is the greater flexibility for holding events. There’s plenty of space for small intimate events on the main floor and a two-hundred-seat auditorium upstairs. Plus, The Salt Cafe has a liquor license, so he can see some potential wine and poetry events in the future.
For those hoping to visit the bookshop’s 200 East location one more time before the building gets the wrecking ball, don’t worry. You have some time. The old shop will remain open for all of 2022, and plenty of new, used, and rare books are still available for sale there.
A small version of Ken Sanders Rare Books is currently open on the first floor of the museum and is being run by The Leonardo. That shop will be expanding over the next three months with mostly new and used books. The used and rare book room located in the catacombs will take longer to build out, but Sanders is hoping it will be ready to open by the fall of 2022.
Sanders has been overwhelmed with the support he’s received from the community, including the Salt Lake City Council, who voted unanimously to allow the move into a city-owned building. He’s also grateful to the 3000 folks who contributed to the store’s GoFundMe campaign. It not only helped them weather the pandemic, but is also helping the transition to The Leonardo.
“I see that as a mandate from the people of SLC that they wish me to continue,” says Sanders. “Yes, there is a risk that I will fail at this. I have always been a risk-taker and I am choosing to embrace this one.”
The Leonardo is located at 209 E 500 S in Salt Lake City. Donations can be made to Ken Sanders Rare books through its GoFundMe campaign.
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