Rumors that the UM Bookstore would buy Missoula’s Fact & Fiction started circulating months ago, and were finally confirmed late last week with news that the venerable downtown independent bookseller would remain largely unchanged—and actually expand to additional locations on campus and on 39th St. What’s perhaps most telling about the sale is the personal way the word spread.
First, local author Neil McMahon and Festival of the Book coordinator Kim Anderson were in the store with Seattle Post-Intelligencer managing editor and Big Sky Journal founder David McCumber a few weeks ago and asked owner Barbara Theroux if there was any news on the sale. Theroux confessed that a deal with the UM Bookstore looked promising, in essence spilling the beans. Then, a few days later, once UM had set a date to sign the formal paperwork, Theroux and long-time store employees David Johnson and Kyle McAfee—each of whom will keep their jobs under the new agreement—went to The Depot to celebrate and naturally shared a toast and the news with Depot regulars and local literary icons Jim Crumley and Bill Kittredge.
And so it went, it seemed, that day by day Theroux would run into another Missoula author, each one with a vested interest in the future of her intensely local bookstore.
“Once people heard it’s as if they knew this wonderful little secret,” says an elated Theroux, who officially signed over the store to UM on Nov. 8. “I think people had to hear it in stages, to hear the whole plan, and then the light bulb started to go off. Everyone’s been very relieved—and, actually, quite excited.”
The plan calls for virtually no changes to the downtown location, which will continue to host book signings, highlight regional works and sell The New York Times Sunday edition. The new on-campus store will occupy part of the existing UM Bookstore, and perhaps the biggest development will be the addition of the 14,000 square foot store in the Russell Center near the South Hills, expected to break ground next spring.
“In college towns, the college bookstore used to be the cornerstone of the literary community,” says UM Bookstore general manager Bryan Thornton. “This is an opportunity to reinvigorate the campus connection to local authors and the population at large in a way we’ve never seen in Missoula before.”