In 2015, Kristen Gilligan and Len Vlahos agreed to purchase the Tattered Cover Bookstore from longtime owner Joyce Meskis. The deal was front page news in Denver, but the move left the couple wondering, “What do we now?”

Len Vlahos and Kristen Gilligan

Pubwest 2016 LogoFor the opening keynote of this weekend’s PubWest Conference in Santa Fe, Gilligan and Vlahos held an informal yet informative conversation about the role of independent bookstores in the larger publishing ecosystem. They drew on their experience of moving cross-country with two young children and settling into life in Colorado and at the Tattered Cover—as well as on their long careers in the book industry (both worked over many years for the American Booksellers Association and Len, most recently, was executive director of the Book Industry Study Group) —to set out their visions for bookselling and publishing today and in the future.

“What I would hope you would take away from this it to understand that we are partners,” Vlahos told the several hundred independent book publishers assembled at the historic La Fonda Hotel. “Be bold with us, be creative. Talk to us. There is a lot of opportunity to break down walls. We want to sell more of your books, and we want you to sell more of your books. You deal with us (independent bookstores) individually but collectively as a channel it’s quite potent.”

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