Paper Moon Books – Interview

Written by on March 30, 2024

Paper Moon Books – Interview – by Dean Giagni.

RRX: Paper Moon books shines over Troy – by Dean Giagni

Joshua Gruft is soft spoken and intense. He is knowledgeable and passionate about the arts, be it music, literature or comic books. Growing up in Latham, he began booking shows in the Albany music scene in the early 2000s, focusing on creating the all-ages spaces he felt were lacking in his teen years. When the pandemic hit, he once again looked to reach out to his community and collaborate, first with a podcast about music and performing stocked with local musicians and then a Zine, Hypersaturation, that added visual art and literature to the mix. After 13 issues over two years, the vagaries and difficulties of distributing the magazine led him to the decision to open his own bookstore, Paper Moon, in Troy, with the same eye towards curating arts and culture.

RRX: How does someone decide to get into a bookstore? Does the chicken come before the egg; do you know some local authors and you try to promote that work?

Joshua Gruft: During the pandemic, I was just going to the park and spending a lot spending a lot of my time reading and sparked the idea to start a local magazine. I had started a local podcast to connect with the local artist community. We just talked to local musicians about what’s like it really like to be a musician, about the process of gigging, the process of having a second job being able to afford equipment, imposter syndrome, getting ready for a gig and how to get over anxiety. I think a lot of people think that artists don’t have anxiety when they go on the stage. I also interviewed some comic book authors cause I’m really into comic books. That inspired the creation of the zine/magazine, Hypersaturation that I started at the end of 2021 and that ran 13 issues into 2023. Through that magazine I wanted to bring a culture into the area which I thought was lacking. Bigger cities like Philly, New York City, bookstores there, the whole rack would be full of local magazines like local zines, small print, small press stuff. And I’m thinking maybe it’s because there wasn’t a store like this around that could foster that kind of stuff, that it’s lacking in our area.

We were doing pop-ups and release parties for every issue of the magazine then we started publishing and distributing our contributor’s full length works under a publishing label, so around the 12th issue of the magazine I started looking for spaces. It was really tiring running trying to get my books into other stores then editing the magazine at night. It became very clear that I needed like a bigger table so that’s when I open the Notes app and I just started writing down just off the top of my head, books I’ve read in the past you know would I be able to fill a bookstore which is like books that like, books I know about and I can recommend. I was already having to cut people in the magazine that I can’t fit it in, so you do this (gestures to the store around him).

RRX: Troy just seems to win in attracting that type of culture.

JG: I think the walkability of Troy is part of it and the affordability too. Troy is kind of like the Brooklyn to Albany’s Manhattan. It’s cheaper to live and so that attracts us artists and musicians. And if there’s an influx of artists in the area you’re gonna have an influx of things happening in the area, that kind of snowball effect. There’s a lot of millennial business owners in this area and that kind of helps, seeing your friends open up businesses.

RRX: How did you start the stocking process, deciding what you really wanted in here?

JG: I really started it started selfishly in that I couldn’t get an issue of Vogue I wanted in downtown Troy so my first call was to find a magazine distributor. With the size of the store I had to be a lot more tightly curated and I had to decide how I was going to stand out from the neighborhood bookstore and the major chains. Collegiate publishers like Chicago University, they were the first publisher I reached out to because they had a range of publications from things about Sun-Ra, the blues to reggae to ethnomusicology. College publications specifically because they have a very authentic intellectual explorations of serious culture. It’s so small in here so it has to be so it has to be tightly curated, the books cannot have too much fluff inside. If you’re coming in here you’re looking for something you don’t even know. Something that’s gonna rock your world. I’ve had that like reaction from customers a lot that like where has like a place like this been?!?!

RRX: What does the future hold here?

JG: I want to develop the space into a multipurpose local venue, slash bookstore. Every month I’m having a new artist show their work on the wall, every Saturday I’m having a pop-ups from local artist and poetry readings. I want to use this as it is multidisciplinary to engage the community in the same way the zine did.

Paper Moon bookstore is located at 42 4th Street in Troy


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