716 Transformers: The Book Curator

By Nancy J. Parisi

Published on

Aaron Bartley owns Fitz Books, an independent bookstore that opened in downtown Buffalo in 2020. It’s a double storefront selling used and new books of various genres but with higher concentration in social justice, poetry, and history.

The ratio of used to new, Bartley says, “Is 65 percent used and 35 percent new.”

At the back of one side of the business, opposite the entrance, is the sales counter, doubling as a coffee bar – it’s also where to buy fresh, dense liege waffles. The other side has more shelves of books and is a gallery space; the back patio is not to be missed in summer or fall.

“The name of the store is a tribute to my uncle Brian Fitzpatrick who lived and worked on this block for 25 years,” Bartley says. “His favorite writers were those of the Beat era, and also environmentalists like Rachel Carson, as well as spiritualism.”

When asked how Fitz has transformed the cultural scene Bartley says, “I am a bookseller so that means cataloging, shelving, and sourcing books like when libraries are divesting. It also means following literary trends. And then there is the culture-building piece, Fitz is a culture space, we host art, political and literary events two-three times a week. Part of the culture in here is to not be afraid to have a political voice, and we talk about problems we see in the culture and community. A culture has developed here that was looking for a home. We’re a downtown space that’s a home base for photographers, fashion designers, beat-makers, and musicians: I don’t know that I did anything to make that happen except that I made a downtown space that is welcoming.” 

716 Tips

“Go to Just Buffalo’s events, especially their summertime Silo City Reading Series held in a grain silo at Silo City. Go to Red Jacket Park at the end of Smith Street, it’s not so spiffy but it’s great access to the river. We sit there with our kids and throw stones; we see deer, birds and trains. The kids love it when the trains cross a bridge over the river.”

Nancy J. Parisi headshot

Nancy J. Parisi

Nancy is a social documentation photographer based in Buffalo, NY.