It’s a corny old cliché to say a bookstore makes a neighbourhood – but sometimes it’s true. With the right conditions, and the right attitude, a place for buying books can become a local community space as well.
Curious Fox was a beloved feature of Neukölln’s lively anglophone literary scene. From its founding in 2013, the Reuterkiez shop became well-known for its community spirit, its eagerness to promote Berlin authors, and its outstanding taste – which extended to a serious selection of secondhand titles. Local readers were drawn in (and drawn together) by regular events including poetry nights and book clubs as well as yearly celebrations for Bloomsday on 16 June. Thanks to the efforts of Irish-born owners Orla Baumgarten and David Gordon, Curious Fox became a valuable hub for an expat literary scene that often feels dispersed and disconnected.
But, last August, the pair announced that they were unable to renew their lease and would need to find new digs. The local outcry was considerable. After a few tense months, however, Curious Fox finally found a new home on Kreuzberg’s Lausitzer Platz and reopened their doors on 31 January.
The new souterrain shopfront is more intimate than the old one, with a cosy open area followed by a narrower, shelf-lined passage towards the back; it bears a pleasing resemblance to a fox’s burrow. On the central display table, Berlin authors – including many Exberliner favourites – take pride of place. Appropriately, the first book sold after reopening was Musa Okwonga’s In The End, It Was All About Love. The curated selection of firsthand titles seems to emphasise themes close to Berliners’ hearts, such as sexuality and racial justice, while local art and postcards pay tribute to the old Kiez’s creativity.
“It’s a relief to have a shop again, we really needed to get these books out of our apartment,” laughs Baumgarten. Next-day ordering is back; events may take a while longer, though they are already eyeing up Bloomsday 2022. Most important to these two, however, is that their loyal customer base seems willing to journey north across the canal.
While Gordon is talking, a tall blonde woman ducks inside and blurts: “I’m really glad you guys are here.” What makes a bookstore truly local is the people, not the Postleitzahl.
Curious Fox Lausitzer Platz 17, Kreuzberg
Need a new book? Here’s what you should be reading in March 2022