Meet Christina and Alex! The artistic duo behind this quintessential neighborhood bookshop.
Meet Christina! She was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. In 2013, she graduated from Wagner College with a BA in English and a BA in Psychology. In 2014, she moved to Philadelphia to start a dual graduate program at Arcadia University. There she earned an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English, with a focus on feminist fairy tales.
Christina has a very colorful professional background. In terms of jobs, she’s worked in an array of fields from hospitality to teaching English and writing at the college level. Christina stayed in Philadelphia for school and, as sappy as it sounds, for love. Before meeting Alex in 2015, she had plans to move south to New Orleans. They decided to stay in Philadelphia and build a life here, which included opening A Novel Idea on Passyunk in December 2018 (they did get married in New Orleans in October 2018, however!).
Fun fact -In May 2020, Christina’s debut chapbook, She is a Beast, was published by APEP Publications, and on October 31st, 2021, her debut full-length collection, Creole Conjure, will be published by Maudlin House.
Meet Alex! Alex moved to the Philly suburbs from Long Island when he was seven. He went to college for Stage Management at Pitt but after two years he needed a change. He moved back to Philly and entered a pilot program at UArts called Multimedia. For three years he explored any and all aspects of design and graduated in 2007. He worked as a graphic designer, videographer, product designer, and the list goes on for about ten years before opening the bookstore in 2018.
A Novel Idea started as a joke that Christina and Alex couldn’t shake off. “That would be a great spot for a bookstore,” Christina mentioned casually as they strolled down Passyunk Avenue. After a few weeks, they both admitted that they couldn’t stop thinking about it. At the time, they were both working multiple jobs and barely had time to have dinner together. They were newly engaged and thought it would be a great way to see more of each other. It was the perfect blend of our passions and skills; Alex, with his decade of graphic design experience, does all the branding and merchandising for the bookstore, and Christina, with her experience as an educator, writer, and community events coordinator, is the person behind every single event they host, as well as a myriad of writing workshops. They got married on October 7th, 2018, and opened the bookstore on December 1st, 2018, in a whirlwind finish.
Roses and Thorns
Like so many small business owners Christina and Alex love being their own bosses. And being surrounded by books every day isn’t too bad either! “In many ways, we’re living the dream!” However, owning an independent bookstore doesn’t mean they spend most days curled up with a steaming mug of tea and a good book. Most of their days are spent running errands (i.e. bank, post office, etc.), answering dozens of emails, planning and hosting events (they host about 15-20 events per month all virtually right now!), social media, branding and merchandising, and putting together orders for inventory. “The shop is open six days a week, but even having one day “off,” doesn’t usually equate to a real day of rest for us.”
Christina and Alex are very fortunate and grateful to have a wonderful employee who runs the shop for them most days of the week. Before she started like many business owners, it was just the two of them working six days a week, often working 12 hour days because of errands and events. “The biggest challenge we have faced since the beginning and continue to face is setting boundaries between the shop and our personal lives. We aren’t just the faces of A Novel Idea but involved in every aspect of the business. Especially after the past year and a half, we’ve struggled to “turn off” our work brains and allow ourselves time to relax, read for pleasure, or do any of the other hobbies or things we like to do!” Needless to say, Alex and Christina do this all for their customers who couldn’t be more grateful that this joke turned out to be pretty serious!