Bookstore Employing Youth Opens Its Doors, Warehouse in the South End

A new South End bookstore has been open for less than a week, but already has had an impact on formerly homeless youth and high school dropouts looking for opportunities to better themselves while gaining job skills.

The More Than Words (MTW) Liberty Bookstore on East Berkeley Street had its debut on Monday, September 10th. Its shelves were stocked with a variety of popular books including Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights” and the Boston favorite, “Make Way for Ducklings.”

The added space has made it possible for the nonprofit social enterprise to hire more youth, as a warehouse abutting the bookstore is now open to receive more items.

“We’ve been able to create more jobs for young people,” said MTW Executive Vice President Jennifer Herbert. “By building a warehouse here, right in the heart of the city, young people can get here through public transportation. That means we can offer more jobs, both in the morning and at night, every day of the week.”

John, a 21-year-old MTW graduate, is excited about both the warehouse and the bookstore, which he will be working in from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

He said youth had to travel to Waltham to work at a MTW warehouse in the past.

John is also excited about the new event space that the bookstore offers, which has a projector and meeting space that can be rented out to the public.

“Most of the youth were planning for a theater, like a MTW’s movie night or a place that vendors can come in and use or other businesses like Whole Foods,” John said. “We thought, ‘how can we help not only ourselves but also other business around us?’”

John said he worked in the older bookstore, which had only 6,000 books, while taking banking classes through his connections from MTW. Before that John was homeless.

“I just tried [MTW] because my friend told me to,” John said, “and after that it was like that first step kind of gave me that push forward and I just decided to just keep working and I just strived as hard as I could.

“Basically being a graduate they’ll work with me for the next two years and no matter what I’m always part of the MTW team.”

MTW Director of Development Naomi Parker said the new bookstore now sells 50,000 books as well as products made by other social enterprise organizations doing similar work.

“Throughout [the store] we’ve got tons of products from a wide variety of social enterprises like this and our hope is this will help lift up the field and elevate the field of social enterprise and make more people aware so they will support more businesses like this,” Parker said.

The bookstore’s online inventory has also improved, as the organization has been receiving more donations to be shipped across the world from private donors, libraries, community book drives and corporate partners.

Mark Touhey of Liberty Mutual was the first customer of the bookstore on opening day and purchased the novel “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd.

The Liberty Bookstore is named after Liberty Mutual, which provided financial support for the bookstore expansion.

“I just want to support this new enterprise but just also the overall mission of MTW, which I think is terrific,” Touhey said. “This is really a very competitive and compelling retail experience, so we are looking forward to seeing how this plays out in the future.”

The Liberty Bookstore opens at 10 a.m. every day and closes at 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 6 p.m. Sunday. Book prices range from $3.95 to $9.95 per book.

For more on the Liberty Bookstore, read about the groundbreaking here. 

Jordan Frias

Jordan Frias is an editorial assistant at Boston Herald and a contributor of Spare Change News. He is vice president of the New England Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and a graduate of Northeastern University's School of Journalism.

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