Julia Fleischaker shares her love of reading

(Courtesy of Julia Fleischaker)
(Courtesy of Julia Fleischaker)

One of the aspects of Baltimore that drew Julia Fleischaker, owner of the Greedy Reads bookstore, to move here after two decades of the hustle and bustle of New York City’s publishing world was its accessibility and openness.

“It’s not a walled off or a gated community that you have to kind of prove your worth to gain access to,” said Fleischaker, 46. “It’s everywhere, it’s all around us. It’s in the history of Baltimore, it’s in the present of Baltimore and a part of the future of Baltimore, and it’s accessible.”

Now with two store locations, five employees and an upcoming literary festival, Fleischaker has become a fixture in her new community.

Previously a member of Temple Sinai in Washington, D.C., Fleischaker currently lives in Baltimore’s Upper Fells Point neighborhood with her dog, Audie.

Fleischaker grew up in Chevy Chase and later attended the University of Maryland, College Park, where she received a bachelor’s in American studies. After graduating, Fleischaker worked for 20 years in New York’s publishing industry, mostly for what is today Penguin Random House.

For a time Fleischaker thought about moving back to the D.C. area to be closer to her family, and she hoped to stay within the world of books in some capacity. She began applying for jobs, including to a few in Baltimore, and as she came to know the city better through coming down for interviews, a question took shape in her mind.

“The more time I spent in Baltimore, the more I just kind of thought to myself, you know, ‘Why am I moving to D.C.?’” Fleischaker said. “‘Why am I not moving here?’ It just felt more like a place that I would be happy to make my home here.

“There was an energy, and it was kind of like a buzzing under the surface of Baltimore, that people are really kind of hungry to do things and to be involved and to be engaged, and I don’t find that that exists everywhere else,” Fleischaker continued.

As for her choice to open a bookstore, Fleischaker noted that at least some of the responsibility for that decision may lie with her father.

“I like to joke that this is all my dad’s fault,” Fleischaker said, “because he said to me, when I was first applying for jobs, ‘Why do you have to work in an office? You’ve been working in an office for 20 years. Why don’t you do something else?’ And so he really put that bug in my ear about, ‘Oh, I guess I could do something else.’”

Currently, Greedy Reads operates in two locations, with one store in the Fells Point neighborhood, which opened in 2018, and another in the Remington neighborhood that opened in 2019, said Fleischaker. She described her first year in business as an arduous yet crucial learning opportunity.

“I was the only employee. I slept every day here. I got to know the neighborhood. I got to know the industry; I had never worked in a bookstore,” Fleischaker said. “So that first year, I would say — when I had no other booksellers and it was just me and it was, kind of, no rest for the weary — was so important.

“And it was so meaningful to me in terms of getting to know people that live in the community and the neighborhood,” Fleischaker continued. “Learning the rhythms of a bookstore and learning what people are looking for and what people find interesting and what’s going to make them want to come in off the street.”

Greedy Reads’ selection includes a variety of genres, including literary fiction, romance, children’s books and science fiction, said Fleischaker. She described the selection of her original Fells Point location as being rather carefully curated.

“I’m pretty obsessive,” Fleischaker said. “I pick all of the books. So I go through all of the books that are being released and choose just the ones that I want to have in my 500-square-foot store.”

Currently, Fleischaker is preparing for her first ever upcoming literary festival, The Lost Weekend, scheduled to take place May 13-15 at Greedy Reads’ Remington location at 320 West 29th St. She viewed it as an opportunity to celebrate Baltimore’s literary culture. The festival will include authors such as Hernan Diaz, Barbara Bourland, and Grace Lavery, according to the event website.

The inspiration for the festival was the result of two years of social distancing, Fleischaker said, and the desire to recapture the energy found when people come together.

“We thought, well, maybe we could just kind of throw something together in our store,” Fleischaker said. “People are hungry to gather and hungry to hear stories like they always have been, and so maybe we can do that for them.”

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