AUSTIN (KXAN) — For Becky Garcia, manager of Malvern Books, the shop was the vision of its owner, Joe Bratcher, brought to life. It was a space that worked to champion the work of independent publishers and bring recognition to lesser-known titles, particularly those in fiction and poetry.
It was a niche Malvern Books has filled since first opening in October 2013. Now, more than nine years later, Garcia said she hopes that’s the legacy it maintains when the bookstore closes on Dec. 31.
Bratcher passed away from COVID-19-related complications in late July. After, Garcia said there were difficult conversations staff and Bratcher’s family had before coming to the conclusion it was time to close shop.
“Joe was the spirit of this store. He was really — he was the movement behind this,” she said. “It was his vision. And we used to laugh, and I’d say, I’d tell the staff, ‘Hey, this is Joe’s world. We live in it.'”
Bratcher’s journey into independent bookstore ownership came amid years of experience in independent publishing. He wanted to create a community space where people could gather and discover new works; Garcia said it was always the highest compliment to have someone walk into the store and excitedly announce they didn’t recognize any of the titles.
“I liked that so much, I put it on the back of our bookmark,” she said, smiling.
Garcia added Bratcher would often use his business to help promote causes and issues he cared deeply for, rolling out Donation Days where all the proceeds earned on a given day would go to various charities and organizations.
“He was always interested in giving back,” she said. “And he recognized that there is injustice out there, and he tried to do his bit, you know, to try to correct that.”
This last month of business, Garcia said Malvern Books would have several sales for customers to enjoy as they make their last trips. Since announcing the shop’s impending closure, she added visitors have come in to say hello and tell employees how much the shop to them has meant over the years.
For those who’ve been in Austin for years, many remember the independent shops that have come and gone, staples of people’s childhoods, formative years or memory of Austin. Garcia said she hopes the legacy Bratcher created and the community found at Malvern will remain with long-time customers.
“I’d love to be added to that list, and they say, ‘Oh, that was a great bookstore, and it was Malvern Books,” she said. “That was Joe Bratcher.”