After soft opening a bookstore in Deep Ellum in December, Will Evans realized he had spread himself too thin. The founder of Deep Vellum Publishing, the Dallas-based publisher of works in translation, turned to social media to find help running the shop, which seemed in danger of closing before it even officially opened. He met marketing expert Anne Hollander, and the new business partners immediately clicked. They began sharing their ideas for the future of Deep Vellum Books, and the store will finally mark its grand opening this September.
After just a short talk, it’s easy to see that Evans and Hollander are a literary business match made in heaven.
The last time we talked to you, it was 2014. What have you been doing since then?
Will Evans: Everything with Deep Vellum since then has been magical and wonderful and difficult all at the same time. Deep Vellum Publishing is a nonprofit, and as a startup nonprofit, there are a lot of hurdles you have to cross to start to be able to get into people’s minds as a vital part of the arts community. And that was my goal when I set up Deep Vellum. It was for literature to be included as part of the arts here in Dallas.
As a nonprofit, it’s been very challenging to fundraise, to get government organizations to help support our mission, which is to bring translated literature to the forefront of our imagination — to make it more available, and to make Dallas a more literary place. I’d say that we’ve done a fantastic job of fulfilling our mission, even with very little support from the fundraising world, you could say. We’ve published 19 books now, which is exciting, from five continents. The books have sold extremely well, as good as my expectations, which are very bold. Starting out a publishing house in Dallas, a lot of people think that it’s crazy, and I didn’t. I’m glad to say that I was proven right.
The Dallas community has really embraced us. They come to the events, they buy the books, and it made me feel bold enough that I could start a bookstore, which was always part of the mission of what I wanted to do. A bookstore is kind of the front line of getting people more involved in the literary culture.
Anne, what is your background?
Anne Hollander: My background’s a bit all over the place. It basically characterizes the inability to say no. I’ve worked with startups, Fortune 400 companies, groups with no idea how to embrace digital technology, especially from a marketing sense. The idea of a challenge excites me. Here with the bookstore, it’s a challenge of a lifetime.
Did you contact Will through his Facebook post?
Hollander: It was actually a mutual friend. Through several shares within Facebook, I had seen this post come up in my feed. I saw this and thought, “Wow, what an opportunity. What a strange, bizarre dream of an opportunity.”
I ended up sharing it, and a mutual friend between Will and I, Brandon Kennedy, reached out to me within, I’d say, about 30 seconds. It was a few days after that you and I got together, Will.
It was the weirdest thing. We articulated the same vision to each other, echoing each other, about what it is we wanted to do — what our vision is for this bookstore, and what our vision is for our place in the Dallas community. We both sat back, and I can’t speak for Will about this, but we went “Wow, this is real. This is so real and I am so in.”
“A bookstore is kind of the front line of getting people more involved in the literary culture.”
Evans: I walked out of that meeting like, “Oh my god, the bookstore’s going to live!” If that meeting had gone bad I was just going to shut it down. It was just that simple. I didn’t just need someone to invest in the bookstore, that had never been the problem. I needed someone who saw the vision, who got it, and could make it happen.
You both keep talking about the “vision.” What is the vision you guys have for the bookstore?
Hollander: By the people, for the people. We’re really keen on embracing the cultural community here from all aspects. From low future to high culture, art to music to performance, books to everything in between. We want to wrap our arms around that community and we want to bring them all together.
Will, how do you feel about the bookstore finally taking off and having a grand opening?
Evans: Fucking elated! I could not be…happier to have a partner in this. This is what I dream of when I moved to Dallas three years ago. I know I’m going to find people that are amazing and artistic and can make this vision a reality, but Anne was like the missing piece of all those people I really needed.
What’s your next step?
Hollander: Our intent is to throw an “old school Deep Ellum party” on the weekend of September 9th. We will do some lead-up activities during that week, the week of Labor Day, so that we can do an old school Deep Ellum block party to really bring the neighborhood together.