A New Bookshop Brings the Joy of Literature, Vinyl to Fountain Hills
Fountain Hills bookworms and audiophiles have a new shop where they can get lost in the stacks. Atticus Books & Music opened in Plaza Fountainside, at 12625 N. Saguaro Blvd., last fall. This marks the second time founder, owner and chief imagination officer Dan Cafaro has opened a bookstore, first owning a used bookstore in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Cafaro and his family returned to Fountain Hills in 2018. “When I noticed that the town I love still didn’t have a bookstore, I decided to give it a whirl,” he says. “It’s a true labor of love and madness.” In addition to the store, Cafaro runs a publishing house focused on “genre-busting” works. We asked Cafaro what’s in store for him and Atticus.
Q&A With Dan Cafaro of Atticus Books
What led you to starting the bookstore—and why did you choose Fountain Hills for the location?
I am a passionate (some might say, rabid) book lover and collector. I once owned a used bookstore, Chapters Revisited, in the suburbs of Philadelphia from 1995 to 1999. My dream was to open another bookshop when my wife and I relocated to Fountain Hills the first time (1999-2006), but I instead focused on writing, editing and publishing. I started the independent publishing house Atticus Books in 2010 in the D.C. suburbs and then moved back to Fountain Hills in January 2018. When I noticed that the town I love still didn’t have a bookstore, I decided to give it a whirl. It’s a true labor of love and madness.
What did you learn from that first bookstore experience that you’re bringing to Atticus?
I learned a great deal owning and operating a used bookstore, particularly because it was my first foray into retail and entrepreneurship. I love the interaction with customers and merchandising. It amazes me how a book could sit for months in one spot of the store, and by moving it or creating a cool display, the very next day it will sell. It’s a magical profession. The playful tagline I used for Chapters still applies today for Atticus: “Where serendipity just happens.”
Tell us about the name of the store—we’re assuming it’s in reference to the character from To “Kill a Mockingbird”?
The name indeed is rooted in the unforgettable character Atticus Finch. Not only is “To Kill a Mockingbird” one of the great American novels, Atticus is a man whose integrity is inspirational. Had I adopted a second child, I would have named him Atticus.
You’ve been publishing books since 2010. What do you have planned to publish in 2023?
We are publishing a minimum of two book titles in 2023, a profound contemporary memoir about cancer, love and life by Lori Jakiela, and our first poetry collection, written by Peter Bethanis. I still am evaluating a third book, an inventive debut novel, which remains a possibility for 2023. Our house focuses on work that is “genre-busting,” a term that embraces hybrid, speculative prose.
How do you hope to connect local writers?
We’re planning on holding monthly readings and author events beginning in 2023. I welcome writers who are seeking an intimate, supportive community. We’re looking to build a rapport with our local residents and neighbors, and I would love for that to eventually expand into a series of writer workshops.
You’re also selling vinyl. Why, and what else can people find beyond books at Atticus?
The idea of incorporating music into the business model came late in the game. I love music even more than I adore books, so the sheer notion of curating a collection of vinyl with a wide range of categories is a dream come true. Music adds a vibrancy and energy to the shop that’s contagious and undeniable. DJing for customers who are perusing our shelves is another intrinsic reward and pleasure. Creating an ambiance that allows people to escape from the daily doldrums is a great pleasure. I also like to learn from our customers.
Atticus also carries bookmarks, journals and calendars, and we hope to be adding vintage art posters in 2023.
What do you like about a hardcover book or a record that you can’t get from a digital version?
I love the tactile experience of carefully opening a hardcover book or album. The smell of books is very distinct. I’m not sure what I like better, the aroma of books or pasta—it’s a toss up!
Atticus also has a sister organization that has a quarterly magazine and podcast.
Atticus Review started in May 2011 as a weekly online journal, focused on fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction and mixed media. We recently changed the format to a triannual publication and welcome writers of a wide array of experiences and styles.
“Atticus After Dark” is our brand new weekly podcast. We are currently interviewing indie writers and others in the small press publishing scene. We’re all about being good indie lit citizens and contributing to the wildly eclectic ecosystem. I hope to incorporate the physical bookstore into the format at some point. The idea is still percolating.
What’s one thing you’re reading right now?
I’m your classic case of an ADHD writer and reader. It’s a wonder I ever finish reading a book given my penchant for so many subjects, but I am mostly smitten by short stories, poems and essays. I am currently reading “The Philosophy of Modern Song” by Bob Dylan, “When Paris Sizzled” by Mary McAuliffe and “Devotions” by Mary Oliver.