Chapter One Book Store is part of the heart of the community

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Katrina Mendrey and Marisa Neyenhuis at an exhibition of some of the upcoming events sponsored by Chapter One Book Store. Photo by Nathan Boddy.

by Nathan Boddy

Hamilton’s Downtown Chapter One Book Store is not only located in the heart of Hamilton, but it also takes that role seriously in a metaphorical sense.

“I’ve always wanted to own a business downtown and be part of the community that way,” says Katrina Mendrey, the newest member of the team of three owners. Along with Marisa Neyenhuis and Mara Luther, the trio remain busy doing much more than run Hamilton’s long-running bookstore.

Mendrey says people come to Chapter One looking for information that goes far beyond the books. “I think we as owners really try to provide a service to our community with information. We really like being that resource in our community.

As proof of their continued involvement in the community, Mendrey mentions some of the projects Chapter One has undertaken this year. For example, their “Blind Date with A Book” program which encourages people to select a book (wrapped in paper with only clues as to what it may be) in order to try something new. The customer is encouraged to leave a donation of their choice, 100% of which is donated to a selected non-profit association. For the month of October, Chapter One Books has chosen SAFE to receive these funds.

Chapter One also organizes a wide variety of book clubs, ranging from the Bitterroot Climate Action Group to the Montana Racial Equity Project. A new addition to the range of groups is the ‘Kitchen+Book’ Club, which will allow a ‘potluck style get-together’ for participants to discuss recipes and stories. The first gathering will take place on Wednesday, November 9 at 6 p.m. and will focus on the book “Roads to Rome” by author Jarrett Wisley and co-author Paulo Vitaletti.

In addition to book clubs, Chapter One also likes to host star author tours, such as a visit by author Michael Punke on Friday, November 4 at 6 p.m. at the Ravalli County Museum. Punke’s most recent novel, “Ridgeline,” joins his collection of historical books, including “The Revenant” and “Fire and Brimstone.” Also in November, author DJ Lee will discuss his book, “Remote,” which is a true story and delves into a family story set in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Lee’s visit will be at Chapter One Books on Tuesday, November 15 at 6 p.m.

With so much going on, it’s no surprise that the folks at Chapter One find themselves playing a clearinghouse role for information that goes beyond their own business. Everything from social services to local events tends to be in their wheelhouse. Mendrey, who is a soil scientist by training, adds that being part of the Chapter One property requires some flexibility, but she loves the task.

“Bookstores are so general that we can connect people with resources and information,” she says. “We try to give back to our community.”

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