Deborah Bodin Cohen, a rabbi and children's book author, plans to purchase a bookmobile and transform it into an independent bookstore for children and teens called The Story House Bookstore on Wheels, which will bring approximately 2,500 titles to school book fairs, community festivals and pop-up locations in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. She estimates it will cost $70,000 to purchase a bookmobile, opening stock and a POS system, and has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 of the total.
"I will be focusing mostly on books that don't have very strong commercial ties, so no Lego or Disney," she told the Washington Post. "I'm looking for more books that are literature-focused, that are well-received, that have a strong benefit to readers." She also wants to carry books by local authors and have a few shelves of books that would change depending on the event she's attending.
Cohen had originally planned to open a bricks-and-mortar store, but the high cost of rent in the D.C. area prompted her to reconsider. "I was attending a Paz & Associates workshop in Florida," she said. "Through their guidance, I realized that I needed to look at alternative models to reach my goal. The more I thought about a bookmobile, the more excited I grew."
Nostalgia also played a role. "When I learned that I needed to get a 'peddler and hawker's' license, I immediately thought of all the traveling Jewish merchants of 1800s and early 1900s," she added. "Here I am, born in the United States with two graduate degrees, and I am hitting the road with a modern-day pushcart!"
Cohen is the author of seven books for Jewish children and one book for Jewish teens, with another title currently in production. For the past 19 years, she has been a congregational rabbi, serving Potomac, M.D.; Cherry Hill, N.J.; and Cary, N.C. She recently left her full-time position to pursue the bookstore and her writing.