Deep Vellum Is Opening Its First Storefront. The Arts Will Be Welcome. WiFi Hoarders Will Not Be.

For now, Will Evans’ new event space and bookstore, which sits in the heart of Deep Ellum, is but an empty rectangle of concrete and dust.

In the back of the building, though, there are signs of life. There, the distinctly mustachioed Evans, the founder and publisher of Deep Vellum, shares a box- and book-filled office with his new managing director, Jennifer Smart. In due time, they expect that this bare rectangle of theirs will transform into bookstore and space filled with creatives, artists and literary aficionados.

That new venture will have its soft opening before Christmas and will share the same name as Evans’ Deep Vellum publishing house — it will be called Deep Vellum Books, specifically. It looks to be the sort of breeding ground of ideas, creativity and dialogue that you might romantically hear about happening out in New York City or Paris.

One of the chief goals in mind here? To make Dallas more of a literary city, which proves difficult, as the literary arts in Dallas often play second, third or sometimes even seventeenth fiddle in the greater arts ensemble.

“If you look at the city, there’s so much money here,” Evans says. “It’s how they spend it that’s the problem. For all these big arts organizations that we look up to — like for visual arts and the performance arts — there’s a lot of families that give to all of these organizations. They’ve never given to any literary organizations before.”

But there’s proof that, bubbling beneath the surface, there’s a real hunger for the written word here in Dallas. Take, for instance, the successful first run of the Dallas Zine Party back in September.

“There are literary organizations here, but they’re under the radar and they always have a little bit of a niche focus,” Smart says, adding that the arts are often interconnected, which can play out to everybody’s disadvantage. “There’s a small audience for a lot of this stuff, and it tends to be the same audience.”

So here’s where Deep Vellum comes into play — by intermingling all of the arts. Evans envisions his space becoming a cultural center that’s open seven nights a week for, as he puts it, “stuff.” More specifically? Poetry performances. Readings. Film screenings. Folk and hip-hop shows. Creative writing workshops. Comedy showcases. Doesn’t matter what it is, Evans says, so long as it’s “smaller-scale, more artsy stuff.”

What Evans doesn’t want is hoards of people coming in and diddling around with their laptops all day. Her says it will be a place to come and buy books, to have a cup of coffee or beer, to chill for a minute, to have a meeting with a friend, to see a show or what have you. Evans threatens that he’ll even kick people off of the WiFi if people try and use Deep Vellum as an office or a library.

First and foremost, it will be a store — and one with a unique angle at that, as Deep Vellum will only stock independent publishers and literary magazines.

“Imagine in the ’90s or late ’80s, indie record stores only stocking indie records, independent from the corporations,” Evans says. “I want Deep Vellum to be a brand people recognize for quality.”

He muses about a kid who visits from say, Grapevine, and says they’ve read Perks of Being A Wallflower, and wants to know what he or she should read next.”

“We’ll have that book here for you,” Evans says. “And we hope to change your life with it. Kind of like in the book — you’ll realize that there’s an alternative.”

Illustration of Will Evans by Arturo Torres.
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