Farewell Books offers Austin an alternative bookstore and community space

David Glickman

Located on Cesar Chavez, right past I-35, Domy Books was a hidden gem, a bookstore with a vast array of independent literature and comics that served as an alternative to BookPeople and Half Price Books. It created such a niche for itself that even when the owner decided to close up shop in late 2012, the staff decided to continue on.

Farewell Books, located where Domy Books once stood, was founded by Mikaylah Bowman and Travis Kent, two former employees of Domy. The store was opened in May of last year, after Bowman and Kent ran a successful fundraising campaign on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website, that raised enough for them to secure the building’s lease.

“When the owner [of Domy Books] pulled out financial backing in 2012, we decided we really wanted the space to continue and stay,” Bowman said. “So we secured the lease. The community gave us a lot of support.”

Farewell Books hosts book readings and signings, as well as poetry readings, 16 millimeter and travel film screenings and music performances. The store also serves as a space to showcase local, regional and even national artists. Right now, Farewell Books is showcasing the work of visual artist and UT alumnus Erik Swanson.

“[It is] because we’re not just a bookshop. We’re a gallery,” Bowman said. “I would say the gallery is just as important as the bookshop aspect of the business. Showcasing visual art, in any form, is important to us.”

Farewell Books currently operates with four other businesses within the same space — Las Cruxes, a record and clothing boutique, Dress Smart Tailoring, Flat Track Coffee and Shhmaltz, a vegan Jewish deli trailer out back.

“I think definitely what has stayed the same and what’s a holdover from Domy is that we wanted it to be a platform for artists to meet, as well as a community space,” Bowman said. “We felt that was probably the most important aspect of keeping this space here because we felt there was nothing else like Domy in Austin.”

The store specializes in harder to find works, selling various out-of-print and obscure books and comics among their more well-known catalog.

“What is different about Farewell is that our selection of books is smaller,” Bowman said. “We curate very carefully, and we’ve also integrated more used books as well as fiction and non-fiction — metaphysicals, spiritual books and things like that.”

Farewell Books is planning to branch out into the publishing world as well. Their first gallery item will be a collection of fake book covers by Austin-based artist Kevin McNamee-Tweed. 

“He has been working on a series of fake book covers, and they’re really humorous, but also really beautiful,” Bowman said. “We’re also going to start work on books that document the artist work in our gallery, so those will be more frequent.”

There’s always a risk when starting a new business, especially a bookstore, but, for Bowman, the past year-and-a-half has been worth it.

“I think, surprisingly, the business has done better than we expected it to,” Bowman said. “It was a huge leap of faith and certainly an experiment. But, also, we work second jobs, and Farewell is a labor of love. We feel like we’re trying to do a good thing, and we feel everyday that what we’re doing here is for our community. So, we’re happy to make any sacrifices, especially because our community helped us start this space.”