The small, unassuming dark brick building sits at the corner of Aliceanna and South Ann in Fells Point. Large white letters spell out “Greedy Reads” on the street side window; inside, the bookstore’s owner, Julia Fleischaker, sits in a pool of red and blue light cast by the building’s original stained-glass windows, browsing on a laptop in her armchair.
Next to Fleischaker lies Audie, a shy labrador-greyhound mix, watching customers browse through over 2000 titles that rest on white shelves and reclaimed wood tables around her. In the background, Charles Bradley and Van Morrison play as the warm summer breeze and sounds of the city drift in through large windows.
Fleischaker opened Greedy Reads in February 2018. She moved to Baltimore from New York City to open the shop after spending nearly 20 years in the publishing business, a career that she “fell into” early in life.
“The joke in publishing is that everyone wants to either write a novel or own a bookstore,” she said.
To her, opening Greedy Reads was like building her “dream library.” The name “Greedy Reads” comes from the feeling Fleischaker gets when she walks into an independent bookstore.
“When I go into a great bookstore, I want to read everything, I want all of it,” she said. “I’m greedy for reading.”
She found the location for the shop by accident while strolling through Fells Point. Fleischaker had originally planned to move back home to Montgomery County, but the small corner storefront on the quaint, tree-lined street was too good an opportunity to pass up, especially considering that there were no independent bookstores in Fells Point at the time.
“I feel like I lucked into a city and neighborhood that really connects people, and who is better at that than bookstores?” Fleischaker said.
“I really feel the fabric of the neighborhood in the people and interactions that I see everyday.”
She’s fallen in love with the city since moving here, and that love is driven by the people she sees in the store.
“There’s so many creative and talented people here making their way and creating a life out of their art and their passions,” she said. “That’s the thing about Baltimore: it’s full of people trying to foster community.”
Fleischaker’s dream for Greedy Reads is to do exactly that. To her, promoting “conversations and interactions is the essence of what a bookstore should be.” For example, Fleischaker also hosts book clubs and meet-and-greets with authors.
The independent bookstore business isn’t an easy one. The meteoric rise of Amazon and the downfall of national brick-and-mortar bookstores, like Borders in 2011, are two major trends threatening the bookstore industry. Digital devices also continue to replace print media. According to The Baltimore Sun, 43 percent of independent bookstores nationwide closed their doors between 1995 and 2009.
However, small, homey stores have made a comeback in the past couple years. As a new player in the industry, Greedy Reads is thriving.
Fleischaker’s experience in publishing has contributed to Greedy Reads’ success, though she recognizes that working in the publishing industry is very different from running a bookstore.
“Publishing was a lot about connecting information to people, and [owning a bookstore] is a lot more of connecting readers to the right books,” she said. “I don’t know how running a bookstore is supposed to be done, so I just do what makes sense.”
So far, following her common sense has been a great business model. The freedom to choose what to stock has allowed her to not only add her personal touch, but also to absorb the curiosities of the neighborhood. For instance, the interest her patrons have in urban planning and “how cities rise and fall” has surprised her.
“I’ve learned a lot about the voices I like to read, who I trust and the things I want to read and listen to,” she said.
That learning has influenced her own tastes and the selection of titles on the shelves.
“That’s the thing with an independent bookstore. I cater to the things that the neighborhood and the people that I interact with are interested in, rather than ordering books for the whole country behind a desk in New York,” she said.
Greedy Reads celebrated its first anniversary in February. Though she sometimes finds the workload and hours overwhelming, she wouldn’t change anything.
“It’s only been a year, but it’s been an awesome year,” Fleischaker said. “Everything has been a first for me. Everything feels special and new.”
As for the future, Fleischaker has no definitive plans yet. She’s still taking the thrill of Greedy Reads in.
“It’s been supremely gratifying to me to feel so warmly welcomed and embraced by the community,” she said.
As our interview comes to an end, a 12-year-old girl comes in. She wears a shirt that reads “GIRLS RULE” and looks over the young adult fiction section with childlike enthusiasm. Her dad tells us he’ll pay for half of whatever she chooses to make her “focus on what’s important.”
With a beaming smile, the girl perfectly captures Fleischaker’s philosophy with her quick reply: “Dad, books are important!”