InkLink Books, a new general interest bookstore in East Troy, Wisconsin, opened July 5 and features murals of four goddesses of wisdom from different world cultures.
“For at least 20 years I’ve been wanting open a bookstore. We’ve traveled around a lot with my husband’s sales job, so when we finally settled down we decided to purchase a couple of buildings,” said owner Kayleen Rohrer, a former librarian. “The first thing we did was put in a café and coffee house to support everything else that we wanted to do, which, for me, I knew was going to be a bookstore next door.”
Four years later, that bookstore has finally come to fruition in the small village of East Troy, which draws steady summer tourism due to its many surrounding lakes. The café, 2894 on Main, is connected to the bookstore by interior walls but is very large in comparison; at 700 square feet, InkLink Books contains “a very curated collection,” said Rohrer.
“These are very old buildings, from the 1850s or 1860s, so we decided, because of all the building codes, that we would not break through the wall separating the two spaces. That actually worked out really well because people come in and purchase books and then they go over to the coffee house,” she said.
Rohrer has always been interested in design, and decided to restore the space in the Old-World Parisian style. The entire building was gutted, but Rohrer did everything she could to maintain the integrity of the space; in the end, the only thing that was not restored were the floors. Rohrer also hired local craftsmen and tradespeople for jobs like plumbing, carpentry, and cabinet-making.
“My thought is you really need to have a certain feeling when you walk into a space. I wanted a catwalk and because of building codes we ended up doing more of a mezzanine with high ceilings,” said Rohrer. “We wanted to make it look sort of labyrinthian, although that’s a little harder with a place that’s only 20 feet wide. But I think we pulled it off.”
Another important condition for Rohrer, design-wise, was to have a beautiful mural on the ceiling. She ended up commissioning murals that depict four different goddesses: for the ceiling, she chose Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, who she said represents courage. The other three goddesses are Saga, the Norse goddess of wisdom, whom Rohrer chose to symbolize knowledge; Seshat, the Egyptian goddess of wisdom, whom she chose to represent strength; and Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of wisdom, symbolizing elegance.
“All along I had wanted to do a mural on the ceiling and I couldn’t get Athena out of my head, so I found a muralist from Milwaukee, Stacey Williams-Ng, and had her paint one. In the end I just decided to take the goddess theme and run with it,” said Rohrer.
In addition to author events, Rohrer said she is also especially excited to host a series of book dinners at 2894 on Main.
“Everything in the café is organic and local and farm-to-table, and we have this great chef who has been written up many times by Milwaukee food critics, so we’re going to start doing book dinners. We’ll choose a book and she is going to base the dinner around the book. Then we’ll have an English professor from Beloit College come and lead a discussion,” said Rohrer.
In the meantime, while Rohrer is working on picking the right book for the occasion, 100 people have already signed up for the first dinner. Each event will have a capacity of 40 people, who then get one month to read the book prior to the event, said Rohrer. The cost will be $100 to $120 per head, and ticket sales will include a copy of the book.
According to Rohrer, the store has been successful so far in part because of the public’s current attention to the importance of independent businesses. Tourists have been willing to go out of their way to visit the store from as far away as Milwaukee and the northern suburbs of Chicago, she said.
“People are really excited about the store; we’ve just gotten so much support,” said Rohrer. “I think in our culture of warehouse and Internet shopping, people are realizing that, on some level, they want to have a quality experience. So I think that is definitely working in my favor, and I’m fully on board with that idea.”