If you're in Glen Park and looking to expand your cultural horizons, your safest bet is to head over to Bird and Beckett Books and Records.
The name, derived from Charlie Parker and Samuel Beckett, says it all: the cozy shop specializes in both books and records. But it also hosts 25 to 30 events each month, ranging from live music to readings to stand-up comedy.
Eric Whittington opened Bird and Beckett in 1999 on Diamond Street; in 2008, he moved right around the corner to his current Chenery Street location. He speaks highly of his landlord, and feels very comfortable in his month-to-month situation.
"The same family has owned the property since the 1880s, and has long believed in renting their two commercial properties—this and the preschool next door—to businesses that will benefit the community," he told us.
Whittington's staff is small, with just three part-time employees, and he describes his business as a "break-even operation," noting that he's still paying off debt and has another job on the side.
The shop, with low-hanging ceilings and wood decor that hearken back to an elementary school library, is teeming with books. Whittington describes it as a "new and used general-interest bookstore that's strong in literature, poetry, music, photography, art, culture, progressive political thought, philosophy, genre fiction, cookbooks, children's books, travel writing, travel guides, and used LPs." However, you won't find books about computers, self-help books, or anything about business. There's also a small art gallery, "Ex-Libris," located in the back.
Bringing customers to his out-of-the-way location is Whittington's biggest challenge. However, he feels that the shop's calendar of cultural programming is what most helps him keep his head above water. The store has a sister nonprofit, The Bird and Beckett Cultural Legacy Project, that takes individual, tax-deductible donations, which are used to fund the extensive programming it hosts each month.
Most notably, Bird and Beckett hosts live jazz on Fridays, Saturdays, and most Sundays. Only the Saturday-night performance charges a cover ($10); the rest of the programming throughout the week is donation-only.
The newest weekly series at the shop is Sunday night's "Canyon Moonlight Music," which began last September. It was created to support musicians who lost their Sunday-night gigs at The Riptide in The Sunset when it burned down. Now, with The Riptide about to reopen, Whittington is planning to move the series to Thursday nights from 7:30-10pm.
At the end of the day, Whittington says he's happy running his little slice of culture in Glen Park, and hopes to continue doing so for many years to come. Next time you're in the neighborhood, be sure to swing on by.