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Denver's Favorite Book Store Has New Owners and (Surprise!) They're Bookworms

Denver’s legendary bookstore Tattered Cover settles in under the guidance of its new owners.

Len Vlahos and Kristen Gilligan took over the Tattered Cover from longtime owner Joyce Meskis in 2017. The couple worked alongside Joyce for two years to learn the intricacies of the iconic Denver bookstore’s operation. Formerly from Connecticut, the couple now live in Littleton with their two young sons.

How does life in Denver compare to the East coast?

So. Much. Better. Kristen lived in Boulder after college and always wanted to come back. The people of the Mountain West are so welcoming, the weather is perfect, and the landscape is incredible. We just did a driving trip around the state with our two sons and fell even more in love with Colorado.

What are your favorite things to do here?

When friends visit, we always take them to Red Rocks. Not only is it a unique experience, but you can see the lay of the land around Denver, including the skyline. In Littleton, we love to go to Lucha Cantina and Alamo Drafthouse. The Denver Botanic Gardens and the Denver Public Library have also been a few of our favorite finds so far. Oh, and Coors Field. Go Rockies!

What was the best piece of advice Joyce shared with you?

Joyce shared a mountain of good advice. If we had to pick one, it would be to always, always, always put the customer first. This is something we knew coming in, but it carries extra weight coming from someone with Joyce’s history and reputation.

What are some of the new innovations you’ve brought to the store?

Prior to our arrival, Tattered Cover’s relationship with schools was to fill bulk orders for classrooms. We (mostly Kristen) have spent a lot of time and effort expanding and enhancing those relationships: We’ve started a robust program of putting authors in schools (three to four each week during the fall and spring semesters); we’re hosting a lot of in-store school fundraisers (a book fair in the store); have launched the Colorado Teen Book Con; and have founded Teen Advisory Boards in two of our stores.

In a world of e-books, what is it about brick-and-mortar bookstores and actual, physical books that can still draw a crowd?

E-book sales flattened out in 2012 and have been slowly retreating ever since. It’s not that e-books aren’t here to stay ... they are. But the current technology is really designed for reading less-immersive narrative fiction. The printed book is still a better technology for serious fiction, most nonfiction, children’s books, art books, cookbooks, etc. Plus, there are studies that show comprehension is higher when reading print, and that screen-reading at night is disruptive to sleep. As for being a brick-and-mortar store, while we are first and foremost a place to buy books, we’re much more than that. We offer more than 500 events each year (author events, storytimes, lectures, adult coloring nights, etc.); we’re a warm, inviting environment in which you can comfortably lose yourself for hours and can meet like-minded people; and, heck, we’re even a really inexpensive place for an awesome date night.

What’s your favorite part about owning a bookstore?

We both really love the events. It’s wonderful to see how excited customers can get at meeting authors. (It’s exciting for us, too.)

What are your plans for Tattered Cover?

Don’t screw it up!