Metro Pictures Books and Hostel are shutting down at the end of the month, after being bought out by Wave Publishers. For its first 15 years of existence, the shop was the new home for the eponymous photographer, a teacher at Georgetown University’s Center for the Art of Education, a client of the project director and owner of the joint offices, and a sponsor of the exhibit “There Will Always Be Juveniles.” The new owners seemed eager to keep the legacy going: When the museum’s board found out that the shop would be closing in January, they moved quickly to get a big deal inked, to find a location, to fundraise, and to fill out the technical team. At the museum, where students, children, and teens grew up, bought pictures, or bought books from the shop, the going-away party was bittersweet.
“It’s kind of like when people give you a gift card, and you look at it, and you think, ‘Oh, that’s so pretty,’ ” says Mary Kiernan-Boonen, who had worked at the business from 1998 to 2012. “It will be sad, but at the same time, it’s nice that we’re not just disappearing.” More than 30 people, from Metro Pictures’ designers and booksellers to its artists and curators, have stayed on since its founding in 1998, including Cathy Post, who has served as a bookseller and public relations director for a decade.
But it doesn’t matter how hard they work. When the museum moved to its current location (2205 Connecticut Ave., NW), Kiernan-Boonen and co. figured that would be the end of the road. “Then we got a phone call from Dan Conlin and Adam Freeman,” Kiernan-Boonen says. The proprietors of the Walk Point bookstore, Conlin and Freeman had started working at MPA Books and Hostel. They bought the shop and set their sights on returning it to its Brooklyn roots.
For Kiernan-Boonen, who’s been volunteering for several years to see the business through until its final days, the lasting memories of its peak weekdays come from meeting people: “In 2007, a man named Dallas Lehrer showed up wearing a ‘Bombs Over Baghdad’ shirt, and said, ‘Yeah, that’s me on that cover.’ We have a video of him to this day,” she says. “I remember one day, one of the artists I was working with showed up in a 4-H uniform. Everyone was like, ‘That is just awesome.’ These are tiny little moments. These are the stories that we can’t get from memory.”