Sunday, June 16, 2024

Caroline Sheridan opens a permanent Side Quest Books & Games shop in the fall. (Photo: Caroline Sheridan via social media)

Side Quest Books & Games announced the opening of a permanent location in Somerville’s Bow Market in late August or early September, selling genre-specific fantasy books, role-playing games and miscellaneous accessories.

Somerville hosts “good new-bookstore energy,” owner Caroline Sheridan said.

The popular queer feminist bookstore All She Wrote Books, which opened in 2019 in Assembly Square, relocated to Union Square in October and for a time was the city’s only dedicated bookstore – unless the Comicazi and Hub comic book shops are included in the count. Narrative Bookshop in Davis Square became the second bookseller this month, illustrating unmet demand by nearly running out of books at its grand opening.

Like All She Wrote and Narrative, Side Quest is an independent, woman-owned store dedicated to “building community through the magic of storytelling from unique voices,” Sheridan said.

Sheridan makes that more literal: She is a lifelong fantasy lover and enjoyer of collaborative storytelling. Within its wooden bookcases, Side Quest will offer “genre fiction with a spark of magic” and be filled with “things found while out questing,” she said.

Player inventory

In addition to fantasy and its subgenres such as first-world (or on Earth) and second-world (or new world) fantasy books, the store sells in the science-fiction, magical realism and paranormal horror genres. The target audience is primarily adults, with some young-adult and middle-grade offerings.

In addition to selling books and games, Sheridan plans to host author talks, book launches and Indie ready-player game nights. The store will be available for private rental, including its gaming tables. Side Quest will host craft nights, including leatherwork and chainmail classes for Renaissance Fair fans.

The store will serve as a quiet writing space for fantasy writers at weekly write-in workshops, and the introductory Dungeons & Dragons classes Sheridan hosted online and in local breweries will also move to the store, as well as a monthly book club. 

Antique decor and comfortable armchairs will create a thrifted and cozy feel, Sheridan said. 

The journey

It was Sheridan’s lifelong dream to open a bookstore. She decided to open Side Quest after finding a large fantasy-loving audience through her bookstagram beginning in early 2023. 

Side Quest started operated at pop-up markets in November, including at Bow Market in March and April. Sheridan said she enjoyed the exclusivity of pop-ups and the ability to experiment with customer demand, and the quick journey from pop-up to bricks-and-mortar store was “unexpected and organic,” Sheridan said.

“I don’t think anybody else is taking the spin that we’re taking,” she said. “There are not a lot of folks bringing [books and games] together under the guise of magical storytelling.” (Pandemonium Books and Games has been open in Cambridge’s Central Square for more than 30 years.)

Co-owner of Bow Market Zach Baum said in a press release that  Side Quest’s products and her connection to the community would be “an incredible addition to our collection of businesses.” 

Sheridan said she is excited to bring “books and games together” to anyone with “big nerd energy” at Side Quest.