It’s a rare person who can effortlessly and accurately quote Joan Didion in conversation without sounding pretentious. Rarer yet is someone who can follow it up minutes later with some wise words from Albert Camus. Yet on a gloomy rainy Friday night in Jamaica Plain, over a couple of beers at Jeanie Johnston, Kate Layte does just that as she excitedly discusses her plans to open a bookstore in Jamaica Plain, the only general bookstore in the area.
Layte, who as of Friday can refer to her job as associate production editor at Little, Brown/Hachette Book Group as “former,” has been planning the opening of Papercuts for two years. As she explains it, “I woke up one day and wanted to open a bookstore.” She added business books to her already extensive reading list and reached out to a variety of groups for free counseling to find out what steps she needed to take to open shop. But what Layte has really been waiting for was the perfect nook to open up, and with Hatched’s recent move to Centre Street, Papercuts found a home on Green Street. Last Thursday, Layte signed the lease.
Even before the lease was signed and keys were in hand, there was buzz about Papercuts. Layte started a Facebook account on September 29 and in less than a week the page topped 600 followers. “Sweet Jesus. Over 600? You guys are blowing my mind. Thank you thank you thank you! So much love!” Now, Papercuts boasts nearly 1,000 likes.
While the rapid, ever-growing social media following is certainly getting the word out, Layte also hopes that the community will use Facebook to share what they want to see on the shelves. Layte plans to have a diverse, well-curated selection of new and used books, both adults’ and children’s. She also wants to pay special attention to books that aren’t fit for e-readers. She refers to Christopher Ware’s graphic novel, Building Stories, as an example: “It’s like a monopoly box filled with all different graphic novels, and they are all different sizes and all different shapes. One folds out to a life-size child. It’s amazing and gorgeous. Something like that can’t translate.”
But Layte stresses that it’s more about what “the community needs” than what she wants to provide. “I don’t want it to be just my vision,” she says, “that’s my living room.”
If there is one thing you’ll learn about Layte upon first meeting her—aside from the fact that she has an uncanny ability to site an appropriate literary reference for any conversation—it’s her passionate interest in supporting the community. In addition to pedaling books, she wants Papercuts to be a meeting place; on top of standard commercial licenses, she seeks to obtain an entertainment license so she can host periodic readings, live music, and other events. Showcasing local artists’ works and participating in Third Thursdays are also ideas she’s been thinking about.
“There are so many possibilities. It’s an exciting time to be in the book business,” she says. As to whether or not she’s nervous about the endeavor in this digital age, Layte, in her own words, says, “Hell yeah, I’m terrified.” But she says it with a smile.