Turning the page
By year’s end, downtown Tulsa will be home to a bookstore.
Jeff Martin and Cindy Hulsey at the corner of East Archer Street and North Detroit Avenue, the future location of Magic City Books. The bookstore‘s revenue will help fund literary programming for the community. Magic City Books will open in late 2016.
Late this year, the Brady Arts District will add a new chapter to its growing community.
Planned for the corner of East Archer Street and North Detroit Avenue, Magic City Books was envisioned by two book lovers: Cindy Hulsey, the adult services coordinator for the Tulsa City-County Library, and Jeff Martin, founder of BookSmart Tulsa, a program that encourages reading.
About a year ago, the George Kaiser Family Foundation approached Hulsey and Martin about the idea of putting a bookstore in its Archer Building project.
“Realtor Anne Pollard James and I put the question out there to Jeff, and he and Cindy spearheaded the movement,” says Stanton Doyle, a foundation representative. “Surprisingly, the concept came together very quickly, and they agreed to lease some space in our building.”
Unlike your typical bookstore, Magic City Books is owned by a nonprofit, the Tulsa Literary Coalition. All profits from the store will go directly to TLC to fund literary programming for the community.
“We want people to feel like it’s a place where ideas are born and discussions happen,” Martin says. “I don’t want people to imagine Tulsa without it.”
Magic City Books plans to set itself apart from the competition by offering individualized service. Employees will read the books they are selling, preventing customers from taking a shot in the dark.
“We’re going to be able to offer a level of service that people can’t get anywhere else,” Hulsey says. “We are going to have really experienced booksellers that can talk to people about what they like to read.
“They’ll know you when you come in. They’ll know your name, know what you like to read and help put a good book in your hands.”
Rather than carry a huge selection of books, Magic City Books will stock a smaller inventory.
“We’re going to focus on best-sellers and a really curated selection of midlist and backlist books,” Martin explains.
The store will be a haven for readers and book clubs, offering a small café/bar, group discounts on book club selections, private meeting space, workshops, Skype calls with authors and more.
Building on BookSmart Tulsa’s success, Magic City Books also plans to bring in famous writers for book signings and meet-and-greets.
“In the same way that Cain’s and Soundpony bring musicians to Tulsa, Comedy Parlor attracts comedians, Tulsa Tough draws bicyclists and all of our art museums and galleries attract artists, Magic City will give us an opportunity to interact with writers,” Doyle says. “It benefits Tulsa residents, and each author that visits becomes another emissary sent off into the world to tell everyone how great Tulsa is.”
Martin says best-selling writers such as David Sedaris, Ann Patchett, Salman Rushdie and Jonathan Franzen are on the bookstore’s board of advisors.
Magic City Books isn’t only about the books, Martin says. It is about building a community that loves to read.
“The books are cool, but the real thing is about the love of reading and the passion for literature,” he says. “The books are just our tool.”
Why “Magic City”?
Better known as the one-time “Oil Capital of the World,” Tulsa also earned the moniker “The Magic City” in its heyday. President Harry Truman even used the term in a 1948 address at the University of Tulsa.
Jeff Martin, co-founder of Magic City Books, says he was inspired by the historical reference to Tulsa and also by a comment author Neil Gaiman made when he visited Tulsa in 2015.
Growing up in England, Gaiman idolized Tulsa science fiction writer R. A. Lafferty. He wrote him a fan letter, which grew into correspondence. Gaiman said he grew up thinking of Tulsa as a place of literary magic.