What: Independent Book and Comic Book Store
Where: Falls Church, VA
Bookstores with creative names, are always the best kinds of bookstores. What bookstore lover wouldn’t want to step inside of a store called Hole in the Wall Books, right? It’s funny because I think most people might shy away from any other type of establishment named after an idiom that sometimes has a bit of a negative connotation. But a bookstore with this name; it sounds like it will lead you right into a scene straight out of Alice in Wonderland! It leaves an impression that makes you feel like once you step though the door, you’ll be transported, through a hole in the wall, to a magical land of books. For the most part this is true. Minus the part about going through a hole in the wall.
Hole in the Wall Books, which turned 33 years old this year, opened in 1979. The store started out as a record shop, and half of the store was converted into a bookshop shortly after opening. After a few years in business, the record store portion of the store was eliminated and ever since it has been a thriving independent bookstore which specializes in used books and comics.
The comic book aspect of Hole in the Wall Books is definitely its claim to fame. I spoke with the store’s owner, Edie, (who by the way, was extremely helpful and friendly) and she told me that in 1989 the store was one of the first and original sellers of Diamond Comics, which is now the largest North American comic book distributor. “The comic books help a lot,” she said. “I don’t think we would be able to stay open without them.” Unfortunately, that’s only a sign of the times. Today, independently owned bookstores need a distinguishing feature that will keep readers coming back. Lucky for Hole in the Wall, they’ve got that extra something that sets them apart.
While I’m no comic book fanatic, I could certainly tell that the store’s selection was extensive. The literature fanatic in me can happily say that the same goes for their book collection. The inside of the store is cozy. It’s a relatively small space with plenty of hidden corners and crevices, all filled with more and more books. Books are organized into sections including literature, mysteries, non-fiction, and cooking, just to name a few.
Hole in the Wall Books is another search-and-revel-in-the-loveliness-of-bookstore-browsing kind of bookstore. There’s no sitting area for reading or writing, which I’ve recently come to realize is a much more modern bookstore aspect. Of all the bookstores that I’ve visited so far, the trend seems to reveal that the more contemporary shops like Kramer Books or Borders (RIP) are more commonly set up for customers who want to come in a pop a squat with a book or their laptop for an hour or so. Most older bookstores that have been around for some time don’t tend to have this feature as often. Even though I’m always looking for a place where I can sit down and read or write, there’s no question that the older, more traditional bookstores will always have my heart. I hope they never go away.
However, one thing that is common to most older bookstores, that gives them character and spunk, is the decorations that are collected through the years. Hole in the Wall Books is very uniquely decorated. Much of the store is covered in comic book art and old newspaper articles.
If you have the time to really browse, you’ll find some great gems at Hole in the Wall. For example, I shuffled through a few piles of books stacked on the floor and found a really cool Bob Dylan Scrapbook.
The only reason this was not purchased is because I’m trying to be conscious of the amount of large, heavy books I collect. I’m moving back to New York in a few weeks and as I have learned from hauling my book collection around from place to place, books are heavy and not at all fun to pack and move. I did pick up a used copy of Oscar Wilde’s, The Picture of Dorian Gray, which is significantly smaller and lighter.
Is this a good place for reading or writing? Nope, this is not that kind of store. Although it is definitely quiet enough for reading. So, by all means, you could certainly pull a book from the shelf and plant your butt on the floor if you felt like reading a chapter or two!
Bonus Points: Good prices, creative name, lasting power, and an excellent domain name. (Holeintheweb.com, love it!)