After four moves and 43 years as a hub for children’s books and visits by local and nationally renowned authors, The Children’s Bookstore is closing.
Owner Melissa Doty said the independent bookstore will close its doors permanently July 25 due to personal health issues.
“It has been a wonderful 43 years! We want to thank all of the customers, friends, and children we’ve had the honor and privilege to serve,” the store wrote in an Instagram post.
The store has laid its roots in many Baltimore neighborhoods over the years, first opening in 1979 in a rowhouse on Patapsco Street near the Cross Street Market and then moving to Harborplace in 1980. The Children’s Bookstore moved to Deepdene Road in Roland Park in 1986 before settling in to its current location in Hamilton-Lauraville nearly three years ago.
Doty worked at the story for about 15 years and became owner when it moved to Hamilton-Lauraville.
Jenny Williams has worked for the store for nearly two decades, watching it move between neighborhoods and persevere through the Great Recession and more than a year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I feel really grateful that I’ve had all these years to be part of this great offering in the community,” Williams said.
Through her years, Williams has seen the likes of Rosemary Wells, J.K. Rowling and Tomie dePaola circle through the store’s doors.
“You name it, they were here,” Williams said.
The store also once boasted The Children’s Bookstore Foundation, a program that provided 150,000 free books to Baltimore City schools during its tenure. Williams said the program declined after the Great Recession hit. The store also was known for its participation in The Baltimore Book Festival.
Since the announcement of the closure, Williams said visitors have thanked the bookstore’s employees for their presence in the community, with some expressing remorse for not frequenting the store more often.
“People often do not realize how important it is to patronize your neighbors and the local businesses,” Williams said. “When they go, that’s jobs and tax money and whole storefronts that leave. It’s not good for the community.”
Erica Taylor, of Gardenville, a regular customer of the store, visited during its last days, saying she was disappointed to see the neighborhood bookstore disappear.
“It’s a real gem,” Taylor said. “I appreciate this store as I try to build a library for my Black daughter. I want to spend my dollars locally and in a store that reflects a wide variety of kids. It’s such a loss because this store made space for everyone. I’m sad to see it go.”
For Williams, the closure of The Children’s Bookstore is a loss, but she said she remains hopeful about the future of the Lauraville neighborhood and its love of books.
“Sometimes things just have a life, you know,” Williams said. “And this is the end of this store, for now.”
Baltimore Sun photojournalist Amy Davis contributed to this article.