Nothing is more heavenly than the scent of freshly baked pastries and books. Both uplift the soul at the end of Green Street where next door to each other are Blue Frog Bakery and Papercuts JP, Jamaica Plain’s newest indie bookstore.
Papercuts is owned and managed by Kate Layte, 29, of Forest Hills. She opened the 5 Green St. store on Nov.29, 2014 during Small Business Saturday.
“I had a fantastic opening day,” she said.
Author William Martin came by to autograph his books and Jimmy Botticelli signed his collection of Boston nostalgia photographs, Dirty Old Boston.
Seven months later and Papercuts was just named Boston’s Best Book Nook by Improper Bostonian. IB wrote “[it is] a charming neighborhood book nook that makes up for its small size ( 5000 square feet) with thousands of thoughtfully curated titles. But like any good indie bookstore Papercuts is more than just a place to shop. Keep an eye out for local readings…”
A native of the mid-state town of Lancaster, north of Worcester, Layte has lived in Jamaica Plain for six years. She moved here – first to Jackson Square – when she was studying for a Certificate in Publishing at Boston University that she earned in 2009. She graduated with a degree in English from UMass Boston in 2008.
Settling into her store recently on the comfy couch, inhaling the scent of books, Jamaica Plain News asked what was she reading.
“Jonathan Gottschall, Storytelling Animal. It’s about how stories shape ourselves. Inspire us. Make us think. ”
“My night table is a mess! I try to read a bit of everything. Short stories. Essays. A lot more novels. I want to get a sense of everything.”
“The trouble I’m having is how to separate business from pleasure. That work-life balance. I’m reading a good book and thinking, “would this go in the store?”
Kate said that for the store- as well as in her own intellectual direction – “I’m a lot more interested in modern fiction; women writers, of course. Translations. Writers of color.”
Books have been a straight line in Kate’s professional life. As an undergraduate she worked at Borders Books on Washington Street (now, alas! a Walgreens.)
“When I graduated I heard that Little, Brown [a division of Hachette Book Group] was looking for customer service staff, so I thought I would give that a try.”
She worked at Little, Brown (located for well over a century at 34 Beacon St. but then at Centre Plaza) for four years, working her way up to assistant and then senior managing editor involved with the production of titles.
“I guess you could call me a project manager,” Layte said. “I was the liaison with artists and designers and oversaw the production of the book” to the retail store.
Layte explained she was bit frustrated that “there are a lot of books out there that are not being seen. The mid-list books. I was spoiled by libraries. By Borders. These were dedicated places for great new books.”
Papercuts Becomes a Reality
She acted on that concern and studied and planned for two years. She talked with her contacts in publishing. She worked closely with two mentors, Seymour Salette and Trish Dooling from SCORE, which helps small business start ups by pairing them with retired executives as well as with the City of Boston Small Business Resources office.
And she acted on her concern by opening Papercuts JP just after Thanksgiving 2014.
“I thought long and hard about the name [of the store]”, she said. “Books aren’t sacred. They are large sheets of paper folded up and trimmed. A book is just one big signature sheet 2 by 3 feet cut up. I do origami. I make accordion foldings out of books. I create things.”
So she created her bookstore.
“Adding the ‘JP’ was automatic,” she said. “A lot of my inspirations are here. ee cummings and Eugene O’Neill are buried at Forest Hills. Sylvia Plath is here.”
Margaret Fuller lived in Jamaica Plain when she gave talks at a bookstore on West Street.
“JP has inspired me,” Layte said. “It has such wonderful places to read Lake Hibiscus at Forest Hills Cemetery. The Arnold Arboretum.”
Social Media Powerhouse
While a sense of place and the physicality of books are at the heart of Papercuts, the store has craftily leveraged digital mediums like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even podcasts. For instance, in the handful of months the store has been open, it already has one of the largest Facebook followings of any Jamaica Plain business (2,559 “likes” and counting.)
Another feature of online life, Amazon, doesn’t faze Layte.
“You can’t discover books online” she said. “In general, sure, people are going to go to Amazon. But there are a lot of books out there that you can’t find on Amazon. I don’t sell the classics. I don’t have Charles Dickens. You can find that anywhere.”
She said she wants to fill a niche for readers of the unusual. The different. The mid-list books.
Amazon also doesn’t give book readings. On July 15, Papercuts is hosting Women at the End of The World with readings by Edan Lupucki, from California, and Jill Ciment, from Act of God.
Layte spoke about another “great inspiration” — the author of Bel Canto, Ann Patchett. After Borders closed, she opened up an indie book store in Nashville called Parnassus.
“She says, ‘That community needs a bookstore.'”
So does this one.
5 Green St.