Earlier this month, our East Coast correspondent, Rachel Gerry, caught up with Atlantic News owner Michele Gerard to talk about independent publishing, lit-mag love, and more. Read a transcription of their conversation below.
Brick: Could you tell us a little bit about the store for starters?
Gerrard: Atlantic News has been here since 1973. It is an institution. We reckon we have nearly five thousand different magazines. We work on the idea that there’ll be literally something for everyone. It’s amazing thing to partake in.
Atlantic News is absolutely part of the city. We are a neighbourhood convenience store and a destination magazine store. It’s a good place to be; we have fun. There are seven staff, and we have around three hundred people come though the door each day.
Brick: You are well known throughout the city and offer publications impossible to find elsewhere. Do you feel that you play an important role in the community?
Gerrard: Definitely. That’s what is so special about this place. Everyone who walks in here is a person first, customer second. We learn people’s names, we know when it’s Tom’s birthday. We make a personal connection with people over time and, increasingly over the last few years, with their dogs too!
Brick: Why do you believe that magazines and journals are important?
Gerrard: It’s evolved over the past 20 years for me. It’s always been that magazines and journals allow people to take time to really get into their passions, whether that be the guitar or B. B. King or female drummers—yes, there is a magazine for that; it’s called Tom Tom Mag. Or you can just read them for the fun of it, for pleasure, to learn.
Now my belief is (and it’s always morphing) that people value the idea of keeping in touch with the analog world, which is now becoming more important in people’s lives. I think a lot of us need to find a way to detach from the digital screened-up world. With a magazine, there is nothing plugged in, no batteries. You have a journal in your hand and you sit back. You can put a magazine on the coffee table and it stays there, you don’t lose the information. There is a simplicity in it that people crave. Print is restful, and I love that expression.
Brick: What is your favourite publication in the store?
Gerrard: Good question. There are so many, and over the years my favourites change. One publication I always come back to is The Sun. It has been published for forty years, ad free for its entire duration. The editor is Sy Safranskyandit is based out of North Carolina. It is beautiful and simple and thought-provoking.
Currently I really like one called The Collective Quarterly. I refer to it as one of the “new publishers,” a high-quality printing concept. It is perfect-bound, around two hundred pages, with stunning photography. You pay a premium for the magazine, and you keep it. It focuses on one community each issue. Once they did Marfa, Texas.
Brick: Do you have any publications that you’re likely to recommend?
Gerrard: There are a number of titles I would like to recommend. However, we have always been strong supporters of Lapham’s Quarterly. It feels like a book. Like Brick, it has a beautiful cover, and it is a nice size, not too big but a good amount of content.
Lapham’s takes a subject and finds writers past and present to discuss it. Lewis Lapham describes it as “the council of the dead.” If history repeats itself over and over again, let’s look back and use living and dead writers to give some perspective. Again, there are hundreds of magazines that I could recommend, depending on the person.
Brick: Why do you think it’s important to support independent publishing?
Gerrard: Independents offer a great perspective. They are reader-supported. They are not in your face with advertising. It’s a tougher model, but independents are passionate about what they produce. Independents can be quite refreshing, too, as there are just some things a major publisher is never going to say.
Brick: Do you think that the magazine is surviving the Internet age?
Gerrard: I believe that magazines stand beside the digital age, that they are happy cousins or good sisters. They come from the same family, all about information and learning and leisure. One’s the granola girl and the other is the fashion one, and they co-exist, sometimes happily and sometimes less so. But they stand out on their own values and their own merits.
Brick: If you could have a lifetime subscription to three publications, what would they be?
Gerrard: Oh that’s so hard. I don’t think I can answer that. Tastes change. I think I’d rather a voucher that would allow me to choose as I move along in my life. You’re in different seasons and different things hold sway at different times.