Every neighborhood deserves a good bookstore—a place where kids and adults alike can find their next read, hear from their favorite local author, and talk with fellow bibliophiles. That sense of community is what inspired local actress and author Daven Ralston and her husband, Joseph Carlson, to open Charm City Books, a two-story independent bookshop that is the first of its kind in Pigtown. “All of my best memories as a kid had to do with books,” says Ralston, reflecting on her bookstore-ownership origin story.
With their combined experience as actors, musicians, and teachers in the Baltimore area, she and Carlson are keen on making Charm City Books a hub for creatives. Operating out of a former Baltimore Police Department substation on the neighborhood’s main strip, the month-old shop is the multipurpose community space that the couple has been dreaming of opening for several years.
The first floor’s bookshelves—stacked with general interest books, with special attention to those penned by marginalized voices—can be easily moved to convert the room into a performance area. Upstairs, the shop’s second floor features plenty of room for all kinds of gatherings and events, including everything from live music sets to early childhood development workshops. “People don’t just go in to buy things,” Ralston says. “They go in for the community feel and the curation.”
“In general, we want to end up being what the community needs,” says Ralston. They hope to eventually increase the number of bookings in the performance areas and become a community meeting place in a district hungry for lively spaces. For now, the bookstore will focus on bringing great books, as well as literary and performing arts programming, to the area. “The neighborhood has a really strong sense of their history, and it’s very special,” Ralston says. “Everybody wants to help each other. You don’t get that everywhere.”