I met Thatcher Wine, Founder of Juniper Books through Courtney Peterson of Logic & Grace this summer. They had worked together for a collaboration with One Kings Lane and she raved about his business. And with one visit to Juniper Books website, I knew Juniper was an absolute game-changer within the book space — and a founder whose calling came from a true and sincere love for the printed page and the endless possibilities that stories carry. We were honored to partner with Juniper on a custom set of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels and I’m thrilled to feature Thatcher here on The Edit. Thatcher sent his questions to me the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I was sitting in my car, scrolling through my phone and killing time before I met a good friend for an early dinner. The days noticeably shorter and the holiday bustle had died down and I was feeling a smidge of the post-holiday blues. I read Thatcher’s interview and was immediately inspired, uplifted and excited about the future of books, this fantastic community of readers and the endless possibilities to celebrate the printed page and to serve with books providing the way. So buckle up for inspiration as Thatcher Wine shares Juniper’s beginnings, its present and future in service to global literacy and the ethos that “Juniper Books isn’t just about selling books, it’s about space and time.”
QL: Courtney Peterson of Logic and Grace introduced me to Juniper Books and, as you know, it was book-love at first site for me. I adore your designs, how you bring the disciplines of visual art and literature together in a very original way and how every aspect of Juniper reflects your very sincere love and appreciation of books – as a form themselves and also literature’s power as a prime mover to change a reader’s life. How did Juniper start? What was that first moment of inspiration or moment where you realized there was a need and you had an idea?
TW: Juniper Books started as a hobby. I have always loved books – reading and collecting them. In 2001, I started selling rare books and first editions as a hobby, not planning for it to turn into a full time business. But one book led to another, I loved finding old books and telling their stories. While it was fun, I didn’t really discover my niche until around 2005. That’s when I worked on my first big library for a client – 4,000 books. The client loved how I listened to all of their interests and built a book collection that the whole family could enjoy. I wondered if there were others who loved books and could benefit from someone who focused on getting them the books they wanted – in the look they wanted so that they would really want to keep them forever.
QL: I was very moved by your post on Instagram for September 11this year where you posted a picture of Juniper’s first space and you described your feelings on that day. The clarity of a particular passage absolutely floored me: “What was within my control however, was the choice to not be afraid or terrorized and to resolve to contribute to the world in my own way going forward – I just hadn’t figured out what it would be yet.” Could you describe this leap of faith – how you knew there was good work for you to do even if it hadn’t taken form yet –and does that clarity from 15 years ago still guide you forward even during the tough times?
TW: 15 years ago I was working in the tech business – I had started a company that I described as a customer service portal – one site where you could get service from many companies. I raised a few million dollars, built a team of 20, created some technology, then ran out of money when the venture capital market crashed in 2001.!
When I trying to figure out what to do with the next chapter of my life, I started selling books in order to buy some time. My entry into the old fashioned bookselling business was partly a reaction against the digital overload and accelerated tech life I had experienced. Instead of trying to get millions of virtual customers to do something as fast as possible, I wanted to sell one book to one customer one a time.
Books have the effect of slowing things down, they take time to write and to read. We live in this crazy digital world right now where all these tech companies have tried to convince us that by having all these these devices and apps we will be more efficient and have more free time in our lives. But the opposite has happened. We’re connected and multi-tasking all the time, our eyes and brains are fried from looking at screens, we’ve outsourced our memories to the cloud.
Juniper Books isn’t just about selling books, it’s about space and time. Reading a book truly allows you to travel through space and time to other places and see the world from other perspectives. Reading also forces you to slow down. Having books in your home takes up space and I see that as a good thing, as our physical surroundings remind us of who we are and also tell the world about us.
QL: Also, returning to the IG post, I was also incredibly inspired by the picture itself because it reminds me of exactly where quarterlane is right now – my husband and I wrapping books and packing boxes late night – while the kids are in bed. (And luckily the Cubs have had an amazing season so we’ve had plenty of games to watch while we wrap and pack). It’s a stressful / crazy time, but I can also see that it’s a sweet time. Can you describe a bit about the early days/ years of Juniper?
TW: The “business” started in the living room of my apartment in Los Angeles in the summer of 2001. After September 11th I moved to Boulder Colorado where I first worked out of a rented garage, then a couple different basements, storage units and eventually a dedicated warehouse. I packed thousands of boxes myself, I went to the post office with lots of bins full of books to ship, it has been a busy that truly has been built one book, one customer, one shipment at a time.
Now, the company has 10 employees and I have a lot of help making the book sets, packing and shipping. I still work a ton on all aspects of the business, working with customers on custom orders, coming up with new jacket designs, marketing and all that. It has always been fun though, I’ve never seen any of it as a burden, I see every point of contact with the books and with customers is an opportunity to improve the world.
QL: Do you have a favorite book? Or do those rotate according to mood? I have a list of favorites and find myself reaching for different ones which align with however I’m feeling in that moment. I have a hard time picking one, but do have a list of 3 or 4 that always call to me.
TW: My favorite books date back to my childhood and they will always be with me – The Catcher in the Rye and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for certain. In a World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester is the reason I became a history major. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby was probably my favorite optional read post college! I love everything by Kurt Vonnegut and would gladly re-read them over and over again.
QL: What’s on your nightstand right now or a variation on the question, what is your reading life like? Do you have a stack of books and find yourself hopping between them or do you commit to one at a time?
TW: I do have stacks and stacks of books, too many to read. I hope that one day I’ll be able to sit down and just read but for now I typically have a few books going at the same time – at least one work of non-fiction, a classic and a newer release. For example right now I’m ready The Sellout by Paul Beatty, which won the Man Booker Prize, also the biography of Woodrow Wilson by A. Scott Berg and also re-reading Frankenstein.
QL: What has been one of the best moments in starting this business?
TW: I’ve thought about making a video about what we do for many years and we finally just completed it. The experience allowed me to meet with some customers and partners and our videographer interviewed them on screen. Everyone had such nice things to say about what we do that I was pretty emotional listening to them. I thought I was imposing on them and taking up their time, but they all affirmed the importance of what we do in the world and in their homes and also it’s not just what we do but WHY we do it and HOW we do it, that is so unique in the world today. We pay attention to the details, we care about quality, we go the extra mile, we want everyone to love the experience and what they receive and truly want them to keep their books forever!
QL: What is one lesson you’ve learned along the way?
TW: If there’s one person who loves what you are doing, then you are on to something. (so long as that person is being honest!)
QL: C.S. Lewis once said “It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.” What’s your take – words to live by?
TW: Maybe more like 4 new books to 1 old book, as there is so much to read!
QL: Can you share an exciting project on the horizon for Juniper?
TW: I believe very strongly in the power of reading and education, we are working on new ways to support global literacy by partnering with non-profits in the area and we will have some announcements about our efforts soon! We are also introducing a number of book sets in 2017 that are good for the world. One of our surprise hits the past few weeks was the success of our Maya Angelou book set. If people read more Maya Angelou the world would be a much better place, so we hope to use some of our influence to bring writers and books that are good for the world to a wider audience.