New BTC owners

Brad and Jennifer Ball are Between the Covers Bookstore and High Alpine Coffee Shop’s new owners. (Photo courtesy of Bobbi T. Smith)

Between the Covers, Telluride’s fiercely independent bookstore, established in 1974, has turned the page to begin a new chapter. Daiva Chesonis and Bobbi T. Smith, who have steered the beloved shop since 2010, handed the keys to 224 W. Colorado Ave. to new owners Jennifer and Brad Ball Nov. 10. The Balls have plunged into their new endeavor as only a couple of book lovers can.

 “Our whole family — five children and one son-in-law — are all book lovers,” she said. “We moved back and forth to South America (Argentina and Peru), so we always took our books with us and amassed a family collection that we still love to browse and read and re-read.”

Jennifer has an affinity for children’s picture books and for art and design books such as “How the Built Environment Shapes Our World” and Austin Kleon’s “Steal Like an Artist.”

As a history major, Brad loves world history and classics like “Brothers Karamazov” and new work like “A Man Called Ove.” Jennifer counts past jobs as a teacher and elementary school librarian as evidence that she, too, is a bibliophile.

The Balls, who also purchased the High Alpine Coffee business from Roxann Vistocci, are no strangers to Telluride. Their twin sons Sam and Isaac moved here a few years ago and parental visits proved alluring.

“As we visited and enjoyed your beautiful town and activities, what better way to jump into the fabric of Telluride than through the bookstore,” Ball said. “We combined our love of outdoors with our love of books and with two of our children nearby and in a place where our other children will want to come visit, we feel so lucky.”

The Balls have hit the ground running and have infused the bookstore and the coffee shop with new ideas and merchandise.

“Along with the current selection of Telluride and regional titles and bestsellers, we've expanded children's section and classics and added some new merchandise like a really cool scratch-off map of fourteeners, candles, and will have some beautiful wool puppets for Christmas,” Ball said. “The coffee shop will have some beautiful new insulated mugs with a Telluride design created by one of our own baristas.”

The pair is also keen to host events of all sorts, including author signings and game nights. For Noel Night this Wednesday, they’ll have local authors Susan Kees, Jill Wilson and Ryan Bonneau on-hand signing their new books.

Smith and Chesonis each have floor to ceiling shelves of fond memories — notable author signings, babies’ first steps taken in the store, book nerd wedding photos — but the simplest ones stand out.

For Chesonis, “The best overall memory is people — be they 50-year locals or first-time visitors — appreciating the simplicity of a book, within which was a complex and rich history or a mere fantastical escape.” 

Smith’s favorite recollection is something that happened nearly daily.

“My most satisfying experience of owning the bookstore happened quite often as shoppers came in and exclaimed, ‘Wow, a real bookstore, and it smells so good in here!’” she said.

Running what Smith called not only a thriving bookstore, but “a de facto visitors center,” was hard work, but extremely gratifying. The store blossomed under she and Chesonis’ stewardship.

“Tourists and locals drop in to browse, grab a cup of coffee, ask for directions, and meet each other in a safe place,” Smith said. “Everyone can leave with a book in hand without spending a bundle.”

Chesonis, too, looks back with satisfaction.

“I am so dang proud of us keeping that creaky haven alive and kicking,” she said. “It means we kept the legacy of Edi Katz (the store’s founder) and then the Browns moving into the future. I trust that the Balls feel the same way, BTC being a Telluride tradition since 1974.”

Smith and Chesonis are each eyeing a calmer future post-sale. Chesonis is ready for a breather and has a non-work laundry list ready to share.

“More desert jaunts. More time to spend with an adult daughter no longer living here. Publishing my first collection of poetry (and enjoying my last year as SMC Poet Laureate at a more manageable pace). More tennis, more fly fishing. Major kitchen remodel. Applying for a Fulbright in Lithuania. Joining my husband on his book tours, to all those great indie stores where I have many friends after almost two decades of bookselling. Maybe setting up a nonprofit focusing on literacy in the West Ends,” she said. “As they say, it's an open book.”

Smith is ready to close the book on a life of retail.

“I've worked in retail since my teens. It's time for a break,” she said. “I look forward to ski season, knitting, reading and taking long walks with the dog. I hope to continue coaching figure skaters and teaching baking classes for the library and Ah Haa School.”

The Balls have seen what a community hub Between the Covers has been for the community, and understand the importance of a bookstore for local and visitor alike.

“Bookstores and coffee shops provide a gathering place, exchange of ideas, old and new,” Ball said. “We see the bookstore-coffee shop as part of the soul of the community. People come here to learn, relax, chat, meet up with friends, celebrate.”