Don Alexander caused a bit of a stir in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood last month when he announced, via Nextdoor, that he plans to open a used bookstore on Mount Vernon Avenue. On Friday, he agreed to a lease for the Company of Books at 1712 Mount Vernon Avenue, and tells Washingtonian he plans to open the store by the middle of August.
The Company of Books will be Alexander’s second bookstore since he took early retirement from the federal government, where he was a lawyer for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. “For reasons I can’t fully explain, I decided, well, I like books. Maybe I’ll try a bookstore,” he says. He opened Old Town’s Book Bank in 2001 and views the new shop as a way to “get a little do over and avoid making some of the mistakes I made.” (The Book Bank is still open, and while Alexander no longer has any financial interest in it, he’s volunteered there for years.)
The new shop will be organized as a nonprofit, and Alexander, who lives in Del Ray, put out a call to Alexandrians to donate books for the initial stock. As a result, he says, “my house is sort of overrun with books now,” as is a condo unit he keeps. He envisions a shop with about 15,000 used books in its 1,200 square feet. The biggest category of books donated so far is children’s books, though he’s also getting lots of cookbooks and books about religion. (“I don’t know what to make of the fact that they’re getting rid of them,” he says.) He’d like to get more books about history, art, and science.
Alexander says he’s open to making the shop available for events, should people in the neighborhood want space for book clubs and the like. With regard to the economy, he says, lots of people think “the worst of the worst is over and it’s not a bad time to open a business. So I’m not the only crazy one here.”