The new Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore, located at 413 Main Street, is under construction and is due to open in May. Pictured is an illustration of the completed bookstore provided by Northeast Collaborative Architects of Middletown.
The bookstore will be operated by RJ Julia Booksellers, the nationally-known independent bookstore in Madison, Conn.
Renovation on the 12,000-square-foot, two-story building began in December 2016 by contractor FIP Construction Inc. of Farmington, Conn. Itkin’s Decorators had occupied the building since 1939.
In early January, contractors removed a drop-ceiling and 2-by-6 lumber that spanned along the ceiling’s steel beams. Crews used sprayers throughout the process to keep dust from circulating.
On Jan. 8, crews removed old tin ceiling panels from the front of the building. New tin ceiling will be installed over the cafe, the floor cut-out and the north and south entry vestibules. The new café will be run by grown, a USDA organic certified concept based in Miami, Fla. owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Shannon Allen (a Middletown native) and NBA champion Ray Allen.
On Feb. 22, crews worked on the elevator’s frame. The elevator is located at the rear of the building.
Downstairs, when completed, will house textbooks in the back, left corner, and the back right will be a kitchen prep area. Bookshelves will line the wall in the foreground.
The floor is opened and protected with guard rails in January.
Frames for five skylights were installed in early March. The open concourse design provides a spacious, airy environment for reading and shopping. The bookstore also will host several events each week including the author appearances and book signings.
Crews drywalled the front section of the bookstore on March 7. The café will occupy this section of the bookstore upon completion.
Downstairs, on March 7, crews removed the concrete floor to access and replace plumbing piping near the kitchen prep area.
Crews worked on electrical and wiring on March 15.
Staff from University Relations and University Communications toured the bookstore-in-progress on April 4. Stairs, connecting the top and lower floor, were installed in late March.
The bookstore’s original wood floors are being sanded, stained, sealed and coated throughout the month of April.
When completed, the bookstore will offer a special section featuring books authored by Wesleyan alumni, faculty, staff and students. Other sections include classics, fiction, mystery, short stories, children, lifestyle, cooking, art, photo, crafts, staff picks and more. (Photos by Olivia Drake. Illustrations courtesy of Northeast Collaborative Architects of Middletown)