In January of 1992, Stuart Wheeler took out a five-year lease on 1464 West Fifth Avenue, just a block or so north of the official Grandview Heights border. For six months, he and paid helpers and friends built and placed bookshelves around the space, turning what had once been Culter’s Fifth Avenue – at its height both a clothing store and drugstore complete with a soda fountain – into a bookshop featuring secondhand and antiquarian books. He developed the idea of the store while in the Air Force Reserves, stationed in Saudi Arabia.
Stuart tells the story that he designed the layout of the store outside his tent, drawing and scratching the layout in the sand, keeping an eye on the horizon for bookstore-blotting sandstorms. He named the store the Acorn Bookshop because although he had been accumulating books in anticipation of opening a bookstore, not all of the shelves were as full as he wanted. He envisioned the store eventually developing into a might oak of a bookstore, so he named it Acorn, from which it could grow.
In 1998, George Bauman was just back from a year in Slovakia, where his wife had been teaching under a Fulbright grant. Prior to that year in Bratislava, he had managed a variety of bookstores in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Ohio. Upon returning to Columbus, George was hopeful of opening his own bookshop. He went to visit his friend Stuart, carrying a cup of coffee, a routine established pre-Slovakia.
When he mentioned to Stuart the possibility of his own shop, Stuart countered with, “You know, George, I’ve been thinking about moving to larger quarters, and if I do, maybe we could do something together.”
Being invited to join an established, successful bookshop was great news for George. Three months later, George and Stuart became business partners, and though the store remains in the original location, it has grown into a mighty oak of a bookstore from Stuart’s sand-designed Acorn Bookshop.
Stuart is no longer an active part of the store, but his inspiration has become a Columbus institution. George now has five employees helping to make Acorn the best bookstore in Columbus, according to “Columbus Monthly”. Without each Acorn Nut (our staffers), the bookshop would not have been called “The literary equivalent of ‘Cheers’”.