By Caryn Coyle
Ukazoo means “a state of ecstasy or euphoria where you learn to understand the meaning of life or the meaning of yourself,” according to Ukazoo Bookstore Manager Edward Whitfill. It is the premier bookstore in Baltimore for readings, book release and author signing events, book club meetings, open mic nights and Scrabble tournaments.
“We are very accommodating,” said Whitfill. “We have no set guidelines and the folks who come here always comment on the size of our bookstore.”
Indeed, Ukazoo Bookstore is huge. Located in Towson, in the Dulaney Plaza Shopping Center, it occupies the building where Jos. A. Bank Clothiers used to sell business suits, tweed jackets, oxford cloth shirts and paisley ties. The events are held in two rooms with tables, chairs and no bookshelves. Free Zeke’s coffee is also offered to anyone entering the bookstore.
Three to four readings a month are held at Ukazoo. The authors are both local and national. Mark Brine, a member of the Folk Music Hall of Fame, who was also nominated for a Grammy, came up from Tennessee to read from and sign copies of his book, “The Carol and the True Folk Legend of Jack Frost.”
The author of “Unholy Grail,” D.L. Wilson, read from his latest release, “SIROCCO.” And “The Teddy Bear Tales,” a children’s book, had its premier release event at Ukazoo.
“The first Thursday of every month is open mic night,” said Ukazoo Manager Matthew Shenko.
The open mic night attracts poets, comedians and a variety of musicians.
“The Maryland Romance Writers Association held a reading for authors from across the country who signed books and ate chocolate,” he said.
Ukazoo Bookstore hosts sci-fi and literary fiction book clubs each month. The book club members read a selected book, which can be purchased at a 20 percent discount at Ukazoo. On Mondays, at 10 a.m., the Scrabble meet-up is held for seniors.
Ukazoo Bookstore sells mostly used books, but 5 percent of its sales are new books and the bookstore will purchase books from anyone who brings them in. The books are checked out by one of Ukazoo’s book experts and Ukazoo pays cash on the spot for what they can resell.
“We have about 900,000 titles we sell here in the bookstore and online,” said Whitfill. “We even hold book drives for charities, like the Edgar Allan Poe House, which has lost its funding from the City of Baltimore.” People donated books, and instead of paying them, Ukazoo gave the money to the Poe House, adding 10 percent on each donation. The bookstore donated more than $1,000 to the Edgar Allan Poe House.
Informal groups are welcome at the bookstore, though an email in advance, at firstname.lastname@example.org is appreciated.
“We do not charge nonprofits anything for the use of our rooms,” Whitfill said. “We have nice, comfortable leather chairs. Just sink into one and stay for awhile.”
730 Dulaney Valley Road
Towson, Md. 21204
Hours: Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Caryn Coyle lives in Baltimore. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published in more than a dozen literary journals and the anthology City Sages: Baltimore (2010) from City Lit Press.