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Three years after opening in Kensington, nonprofit publisher and bookseller The Head and The Hand has secured funding for a relocation.
Most recently at 2644 Coral St., the community-focused bookstore’s new home is 2230 Frankford Ave. The storefront, previously a CBD outlet, is on a rapidly developing stretch of the retail corridor. It faces Circle Thrift, with St. Oner’s beer garden a few doors down, Pizza Brain up the block, and Brewery ARS opening across the street.
“We feel like we’re coming to a place that has a lot of vitality,” said Linda Gallant Moore, the shop’s editorial director.
A downturn in foot traffic over the last two years prompted the move to a block already inhabited by bustling independent small businesses. Decked out with a ramp for ADA accessibility and a second floor, The Head and The Hand is “effectively doubling our footprint,” Moore said.
The move was made possible with the assistance of “community denizen” and real estate agent Jeff Carpineta and the fiscal support of the Penn Treaty Special Services District.
With a new three-year lease signed and the original store closed, the focus is on March 4 — the date for the new location’s grand opening. “We’ve committed to that First Friday,” Moore said.
Despite the challenges the bookshop faced at the original address, the Penn Treaty District — a nonprofit formed in return for allowing Rivers Casino to operate in the River Wards — approved a grant application to cover The Head and The Hand’s first year of rent at the new spot.
Moore hopes having more space will accommodate an expanded programming schedule that builds on innovative ideas and unique collaborations that surfaced during the pandemic.
One of those is the “Date Night” program, where patrons can rent out the store for an evening of dinner and drinks. The brainchild of creative director Claire Moncla, the program will continue for the foreseeable future, although the price has been upped from $65 to $85 due to supply and staffing issues.
Other virtual programming during COVID included a hybrid event where husband-and-wife-owned Fishtown Films filmed authors reading from the anthology “Hindsight: Reflections Before and After 2020,” and there are plans to do more in that vein.
The ground floor is where Moore and Moncla hope to expand their writing workshop programs and classes, as well as store a growing book inventory. As for the second level?
“The top floor is where we’re going to really focus on making cozy, warm and inviting for the community. Get our families back in there for storytime — masked, of course,” said Moore. “We’ve had moments of real joy and emotion and expression on Zoom readings, but it feels as though it’s the exception rather than the rule.”
And for new publishing projects, it turns out Date Night bore more fruit than expected.
Moncla started giving couples who booked the store a chance to share their stories, featuring them on Instagram in a series dubbed “Friday I’m in Love.” “They’re just so amazing,” Moore gushed. “Some of them are crazy. Some of them are funny. Some of them are just so heartwarming.”
It dawned on the duo that the stories were worth formally collecting, and the testimony of Philly pairings will be published in an anthology they hope to bring out later this year or in 2023. “It’s a record of the people that kept us going during a really difficult time — and they’re good writers,” said Moore.
Emerging out of that difficult period with a new lease on life, The Head and The Hand is looking forward to more good books, programs, conversations, and community building. Especially excited for COVID restrictions to ease up, Moore is ready to keep sharing an experience that she says is irreplaceable.
“There’s nothing that compares to a writer getting up and sharing an original work in a space with a bunch of people who’ve never heard it before.”