In this year of loss, this news struck me hard. Kramerbooks is urban life. As a college freshman, the experience of visiting the store defined the city for me.
The RA in my dorm at American University had led a bunch of us on a tour of the monuments. On the way back, we got off at the Dupont Circle Metro. As I rose out of the earth on the escalator, I was immediately enchanted by this bohemian neighborhood of art galleries, record shops and bookstores.
Kramerbooks defined cool. More than just a bookstore, it was open late, served brunch and you could even get a drink there.
It was the height of urban sophistication. When I moved back to DC after a few years in Florida, I made sure to be within walking distance of Kramers.
On the weekends, I’d amble around the city and stop off at the bookstore. There, I’d browse through the new books and imagine myself as an author.
Years later, my dreams came true. My short story, Victory Party, won the City Paper Fiction Competition. I did a reading at Kramerbooks. Staff pushed back the stacks, chairs were set up and there I was in the window of Kramers, sharing my creation with an audience.
And perhaps inspiring another writer, like I once was by the Kramerbooks experience.
Location, Location, Location
DC is all about real estate – Kramers is no exception. Behind the fantasy of a clean and well-lit place for literature is the brutal reality of dollars and cents. Dealing with three landlords, as Kramers does, is complicated.
And Dupont Circle is no longer fashionable; it has become old and tired. The record stores and dive bars that were its peers are long since gone. Storefronts are empty and tents for the homeless have sprung up on the sidewalks.
All the energy of the city has gone east. Why stay in a cramped building on Connecticut Avenue when you could move to a larger space in a shiny new neighborhood like H St or Yards Park?
Kramerbooks is Dupont Circle and Dupont Circle is Kramerbooks. Their brands are married in a bohemian embrace. It’s hard to imagine Kramers anywhere else.
But cities change. That’s what makes them so interesting.
The bookstore I fell in love with as college freshman. The piles of novels I dreamily browsed there on Sunday afternoons. The experience of reading Victory Party before a crowd.
If the Coronavirus crisis has taught us anything, it’s to cherish those precious and unrecoverable moments. Kramers may change but the experiences it created will endure.