Small Print: Tiny bookstore opens in tiny gallery

December 16, 2011
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SOUTH ST.—Jamaica Plain’s smallest storefront art gallery is now sharing space with the neighborhood’s smallest bookstore.

The Hallway Gallery—literally a hallway at 66a South St.—has given over about six square feet of space at its far end to used bookseller Subterranean Books.

The bookstore is the pet project of professional art handler and recent JP transplant Chris Barber. Currently, all of the stock is about 300 items from his personal collection.

During a recent Gazette visit to the gallery/bookstore, Barber said he got the bookselling bug while living in Lynn prior to his July move to JP, and opened his now-closed first location in a basement art gallery there.

He met Hallway proprietor Brent Refsland at Vee Vee restaurant a few months before he moved to JP, he said, and the two immediately started talking about collaborating.

Refsland told the Gazette that when he and Barber met, he was thinking about opening what would eventually become Room 68, a contemporary furniture store at 68 South St.

Before he settled on selling furniture, he said, he was interested in Subterranean Books joining on as one of a group of micro-businesses in that space.

But, he said, even after it become clear that would not work out, he kept lobbying Barber to open in the Hallway.

Refsland said he thinks the book business will increase foot traffic to the gallery. “Even if it just by a couple of people a day, I think people will be attracted to the quirky experience of coming into a gallery that has the option to browse books,” he said.

Barber and Refsland both told the Gazette that they expect Subterranean Books will eventually expand to start taking new books on consignment and selling selected titles in conjunction with exhibits at the gallery. Barber may also co-curates some art shows as well as open mic nights and readings that the Hallway regularly hosts, they said.

Barber said the 300-book collection on display accounts for about one-third of his entire collection.

The books are organized by size, but otherwise just randomly placed on the shelves. “I like browsing, and at the moment the collection is small enough that I think its more fun to keep it a little random.”

The collection includes art books, cultural studies, fiction, poetry and philosophy, Barber said. A Gazette perusal of the stacks turned up titles like “Religion and the Decline of Magic”; “Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings” and “Hollow Earth: The Long and Curious History of Imagining Strange Lands, Fantastical Creatures, Advanced Civilizations, And Marvelous Machines Below the Earth’s Surface.”

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