For 21 years, Kristin Sollenberger has owned and operated Paper Nautilus, a secondhand bookstore at 5 South Angell St. On March 6, she received a letter from landlord Kenneth Dulgarian stating that Paper Nautilus’ lease will expire April 15 and is not up for renewal.
Dulgarian did not disclose the reasons for not renewing Paper Nautilus’ lease. The Providence Journal reported that he had signed a nondisclosure agreement regarding plans for the South Angell Street property, and he could not be reached when contacted for an interview with The Herald. Dulgarian owns several other properties in Wayland Square and Thayer Street, including the Avon Cinema and the building that houses Starbucks and Santander Bank.
Over the 21 years she has occupied the space, Sollenberger said she never had any problems renewing her lease. “When I called after receiving the certified letter saying he wasn’t going to renew it, he didn’t have any explanation, and he didn’t ever offer (the space) to me for a higher price,” she said.
Sollenberger was able to negotiate for an April 30 departure date, but was surprised that Dulgarian had not approached her earlier about the lease, given their relationship.
Nautilus regular Kate Josephson posted a petition two weeks ago to save the store with the help of former Brown literary arts professors Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop. The petition currently lists 1,160 signatures and hundreds of comments from supporters across the United States and beyond.
Sollenberger noted that the support has encouraged her to find a new location. Since the publication of Paper Nautilus’ story in the Providence Journal Saturday, Sollenberger has been contacted by multiple real estate agents with suggestions for possible relocations. At the moment, she is unsure where Paper Nautilus will relocate.
“Old bookstores like this one are deeply connected with a community. They help people to grow and share thoughts,” wrote one commenter from Aversa, Italy, on the petition.
“A huge piece of the community would be missing” if Paper Nautilus is unable to find a place to resettle, Josephson said. While Josephson is doubtful the petition will change Dulgarian’s mind, she feels creating it and reading the supportive comments has made the experience “a little less dismal and depressing.”
Sollenberger first came to Providence as a Rhode Island School of Design student in the late ‘80s. She graduated with a painting degree in 1990 and worked at the largest used-book store in Rhode Island, Cellar Stories, before going on to manage the Providence Bookstore Cafe for five years. When the cafe closed in 1996, Sollenberger bought its inventory and opened Paper Nautilus.
The concept of a used-book store intrigued Sollenberger, who was excited to learn that she “could buy a whole pile of books for $20 instead of one book.”
“I had also been able to indulge my creative side with the store in doing my artwork on the side,” Sollenberger added.
Sollenberger created Paper Nautilus from the ground up. Friends and family helped her paint walls and build bookcases, and she displays the work of local artists around the shop, she said.
“There’s a way in which Paper Nautilus feels in itself like a work of art,” Josephson said.