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Not Just the Little Bookstore Around the Corner

Tom McDonnell has spent the past 22 years bartending at various bars in South Buffalo. Keeping a book behind the bar to occupy his time, he often found patrons asking for recommendations on what to read. Having earned a Masters in Education from Canisius College he could have followed the general progression and become a teacher, but it wasn’t for him.
McDonnell worked at many bookstores, but he didn’t think simply pointing people in directions was enough. He wanted to immerse himself in literature and promote it for all. The Huntington Learning Center taught him that he was fantastic at one-on-one facilitating and he was great with small groups that wanted to be there, so he decided to venture into the idea of creating his own literary center.
As McDonnell took a drive through his neighborhood in South Buffalo, he noticed that many buildings were succumbing to years of disrepair. He noticed far too many houses in need of attention and emptying storefronts. So when he decided to dedicate his time and energy into creating a bookstore and literary arts center he knew exactly where to put it. “This (the bookstore) was an old dilapidated building,” McDonnell admitted. “I needed to put it here for my neighborhood, for our community. I wanted to be a part of saving the neighborhood, even one building at a time.”
The Dog Ears Bookstore, named for the fold that readers sometimes make to mark their progression, is more than just your simple bookstore. Located at 688 Abbott Road in South Buffalo, ‘Dog Ears’ is a hybrid literary hub. “Most bookstores are too big and impersonal, coffee shops are too snooty, and libraries can be stale as budgets corral their imagination,” said McDonnell. “We’ve tied all three together in a fun and inviting, comfy and funky setting where the written word rules.”
The bookstore, itself, is lined with beautiful wood shelves filled with books on all topics. Although McDonnell refers to it as a “shrink-wrapped” Barnes and Noble, he promises that if they don’t have a book he will order and deliver it to you within 24 hours.
A back room serves as a reading area, with comfortable chairs, large lamps and a thick wood door set on four legs, which serves as a fun and funky coffee table. And then there’s the upstairs.
A spiraling staircase seems to symbolize the great imaginative climb that students, young and old, will take in the center above. The Literary Arts Center, equipped with comfy couches and working stations, will incorporate several different courses to enrich participants with better reading and writing skills. The programs will be in conjunction with local school’s at the elementary, high school and even college level. Teachers from these schools, retired school teachers, as well as current English enthusiasts will all be involved in cultivating readers and writers of all ages. McDonnell wants to reassure parents that everyone working in the center will be fingerprinted and meet the same guidelines as area schools.
McDonnell’s dream is finally coming into fruition. With the help of many people, including Patrick Tallahan and Assemblyman Mark Schroeder, he was able to turn his dream into reality. As a non-profit organization, the bookstore relied on grants, fundraising, and private donations to get a jumpstart. Once opened, the profit from the bookstore will also added as a way to keep the organization flourishing.
The bookstore opened April 20 at 688 Abbott Road in South Buffalo. For any questions, comments and hours, call the bookstore at 823-BOOK(2665). Stop by, relax and enjoy a nice read. Tom McDonnell is sure to greet you with a helping hand and a few suggestions. “We are here to promote all enthusiastic people who want to talk books and want the right book put in their hand,” McDonnell said.

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