Spyros Valtetsiotis opened the first elegant bookstore in Piraeus

It is somewhat hard to believe that Piraeus did not have a genuine bookstore until last April. The beginning was made by Spyros Valtetsiotis opening the first one, realizing his dream, as he tells me, as we chat among many books in a modern and warm space that seems to have been made with a lot of care and love. He himself explains how, where, when, why:

“I have been reading systematically or passionately since I was 18. I studied something completely different, an art conservator, but I was afraid to follow the profession. I finished the army in 1996 and wanted to deal with books. Those were other times then, getting a job was easy. I have worked in bookstores and publishing houses such as in Papasotirio where I stayed for a decade, until it closed, in Euripides and most recently in Lexikopoleio.

© Andreas Thomopoulos

I tell you with confidence that any person who reads a lot dreams of either owning their own bookstore or working in one. I always dreamed of having my own bookstore but never decided to make it happen. When I was out of work I wondered if the time had come to take this step. But you have to have the necessary experience, know the job, you can’t do it at any time. Now I am alone here, I do everything, from orders, receipts, publications, clerk, even cleaning.

I am from Piraeus, I was born and live here, I love Piraeus very much. There was nothing like it. I wanted to create a bibliophile space where a person who reads can come and be informed about new publications, talk to someone who shares the same passion for the subject, that is, for books, and not just someone who loves books. I wanted to be able to communicate with the patrons. After all, a smaller-scale bookstore, like this one, relies more on the human element and human contact.

The space has been designed by a young architect, Anna Yotakou. I wanted a new man who had a vision and got away from the trivial. Certainly some things will be the same, from then on I wanted it to be something new. And I believe we achieved that.

© Andreas Thomopoulos

I dream of a space that will be able to contribute culturally to the local community of Piraeus. I wanted to meet the book lovers of Piraeus and they with me. And if we can have some influence that more people engage in reading and get to know things and places that they didn’t know about through books. That’s what I wanted to do.

There are many problems that plague the book space. But the point is that when you want to do something, the fact that you might not find a job shouldn’t stop you. Logic doesn’t speak to these things. The same for me. A bookstore is not an investment that will make you money and make you well off.

The Fata Libelli bookstore.

© Andreas Thomopoulos

The most natural – I won’t say the most correct way – to get to know a book is to come, to be informed about the new releases, to see the books themselves. The book is something “alive”, is an object with weight, with texture, with smell. These are elements that speak to the senses of a bibliophile and that a computer image will never replace.

If we rely on a life with computers, then what we used to call life will disappear. That is, the books will exist in a large warehouse, which we will not have access to, and which will supply us with books that we will order. There are shops where you take a walk, you have a good time, isolating each person and doing business from a computer is not life. Any retail store is not a gas station, a large warehouse. Even in clothes you follow the same process, you go, you see them, you try them on. It is the same in books and has to do, I believe, with the quality of our lives. The visit and contact with the book is not only for “sophisticated” readers.

Detail from Fata Libelli bookstore.

© Andreas Thomopoulos

I do not consider the future of the book to be ominous. Many tried to bury it before its time. When they came out e-books for example. And although one would say that it is practical, it did not work. There you see a photo, one PDF. While you are crumpling the paper, you have spent time with it, you may have fallen asleep reading it, it is part of you. With a PDF you can’t have memories. It is an electronic file of letters, not a book. Even if you make a hologram, it’s still a hologram of an object, not a book.

All kinds of people come to the bookstore and quite a few young people. A young man cannot have read much, he is at his beginning. And it’s nice to suggest something for him to read and then when he comes back to tell you that he really liked it, that it opened up new ways for him. When something like this happens to me, I feel like I’ve reached the top, I’ve achieved my goal.

The Fata Libelli bookstore.

© Andreas Thomopoulos

A small bookstore is not about profit, but about deeper things. It is a place of culture, no matter how we do it. And it’s not so much the books. Bookstores that left history in Athens, such as Hestia or Kaufman, are because you remember the atmosphere and the conversations that took place there with the sellers or with the other customers.

I have hope that the bookshop will succeed, but that also depends on people’s support. But even if it doesn’t last, I won’t regret taking this step. I had told the architect when it was over that it doesn’t matter if we fail or not. The journey is over, we have arrived. It doesn’t matter if it becomes a commercial space, a commercial success. After all, it wasn’t intended for that.”

161-163 Praxitelous Street, Piraeus 185 35, tel.: 210 4296681

The article is in Greek

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