Vail Valley Arts & Culture 2012

Gradual growth has helped The Bookworm put down solid roots, and  Carrie Fell knows how to romance people back to their most authentic selves.

By Kimberly Nicoletti and Don Berger February 1, 2012 Published in the Midwinter/Spring 2012 issue of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine

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Slow and Steady Wins the Race

While independently owned bookstores seem to be going the way of the dodo in America, The Bookworm in Edwards seems to have found the recipe for success, the same as at any independent bookstore: personal attention.

The shop has changed hands several times since opening its doors on the retrofitted van that was the its first home in 1996. The mobile bookstore—also a throwback to days gone by—roamed from coffee shop to coffee shop, peddling to bibliophiles.

A year later, original owner Kathy Westover decided to settle down, with both a brick-and-mortar location and a new partner, Neda Jensen. A decade later, the store had two new owners, Nicole Magistro and Kristi Allio Feichtinger, and in 2007 it settled in another new home, its current locale at the Riverwalk, complete with a new café. 

Westover and Jensen knew that coffee and snacks make perfect mates to books, but they didn’t want another Borders-esque coffee shop. As they pondered how to make their store unique, they latched onto the concept of a “third place.”

“You have your home, your work place, and then the ‘third’ place,” Magistro says, a place to go to get away, but where you still feel at home. A Cheers or a Central Perk, but rooted in reality—except for the fiction section. “We wanted people to have a place to go or meet friends that wasn’t necessarily a bar.” 

The first hurdle in adding the café was figuring out how to do more than just sandwiches without a full kitchen. Searching for an affordable but unique menu, Magistro remembered long lines at the crêpe concession at the Minturn Farmers Market, which she managed in a former life. Crêpes proved to be a hit, and the menu has grown to include full fare from pastries to smoothies to soup. They didn’t want a bar atmosphere but did get a liquor license, allowing them to serve cocktail coffees during regular hours, such as the Turtle Mochaccino. They can also offer a full bar if needed for private parties. The Bookworm plays host to a number of private bookings and special events, like speakers for the Vail Symposium, the Literary Project, and the Women’s Foundation of Colorado.

But the heart of The Bookworm remains the books themselves, which Magistro hand selects.

“We obviously have all of the best sellers and book-club books, but I also try to select less popular titles just to have an interesting selection to browse,” she says. The store’s inventory also counts rare and used books among its ranks.

Since its early days on wheels, The Bookworm has become a community fixture, the kind of place that would cause loyal customers to shed tears should it be lost, like a childhood home. A third place, indeed, and part of the family.  

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For 20 years, she has explored herself through journaling, using Ruby and her horse Highway, two fictional characters, as observers. Ruby “filters through challenges and circumstances, and in some respects makes everything seem easier,” and Highway reflects Fell’s inner strength by moving Ruby forward, Fell says.

Last summer, Fell called upon Highway as she stood at a crossroads, unsure of what direction to take: follow the safe path of continued gallery representation but risk burnout by conforming to cookie-cutter standards, or step out on her own. In December, she chose the latter and opened Carrie Fell Gallery, where she shares not only her own art, but that of others who use their art to reflect their authentic selves.

When people walk in, they can almost hear rockabilly strum through Carol Braden’s decorative guitars, fashioned from old license plates; they can feel the pulse of vintage Vail with Fosterweld’s 8150 belt buckles; and they see how Fell’s bold use of color brings her faceless cowgirl and horse paintings to life.

And amid life-size, scrap-metal sculptures of longhorns and masterfully crafted wooden vessels, Fell showcases an essential symbol of her journey: silver horse pendants, named Highway. 

Sophie Meintjes, a 16-year-old, makes the horse pendants, and she fits perfectly into Fell’s gallery theme: Fell searches for artists who have the courage to follow their souls, she says.

Whether it’s through a necklace, a handmade journal with a call to stay true, or paintings hanging museum-style upon the walls, the Carrie Fell Gallery invites people to return to a state of simplicity, where breath becomes more fluid, and sinking into oneself becomes more natural.Kimberly Nicoletti

Carrie Fell Gallery at Solaris Vail
141 East Meadow Dr. | Ste. 209 

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