When Emilee Clemons, Clay Center resident and a student at Highland Community College, woke up Thursday morning to see a message from her friend, she groggily read it as her friend explained that a fire had started in The Dusty Bookshelf.
As Clemons searched social media for updates, videos and pictures, her stomach twisted as the realization set in. Clemons decided to drive to Manhattan that afternoon to see the burned bookstore for herself.
“This old building was more than a store — The Dusty Bookshelf was a safe haven for me,” Clemons said. “It was a place to find my next good read, trading old books in exchange for store credit, swaying to the jazzy music, resting in a comfy chair, taking a deep breath and filling up on inspiration. My favorite bookstore. I took large groups of my friends with me on my birthdays and took myself on many dates to quietly browse the aisles.”
Fire at former Dusty Bookshelf leads to 'total loss' of Aggieville building
The Manhattan Fire Department declared the building a “total loss” caused by a fresh coat of wood stain on the floor that had caught fire, according to a news release.
The Dusty Bookshelf first opened a storefront in 1985, but didn’t move to the now-destroyed Aggieville building until 1991. Since then, the store has served as a quiet space to settle down, read or purchase gently-used books.
Clemons frequently visited the store and even took her senior pictures among the rows of books.
“My highest hope is that the store would be restored and rebuilt,” Clemons said. “I would hate to see this Manhattan staple be completely eliminated, despite that it will not be the same.”
Upon hearing the news, many other people voiced concern over the safety of the books and the store cat, Oliver. However, both were confirmed safe later in the day.
The Dusty Bookshelf fire as told by Twitter
Kennedy Trimble, Manhattan resident, said she was shocked that the bookstore had suddenly gone up in flames in the middle of the night. She, too, had found comfort within its walls.
“The Dusty Bookshelf is my favorite store in Manhattan by far,” Trimble said. “I love how cozy it is, and I love how cheap the books are. It has fed my personal library for the last three years. Seeing Oliver every time I’m in there is just another perk. I don’t think I have ever walked in and out in less than an hour, nor empty-handed.”
Ryan Krajicek, senior in physical sciences and pre-medicine, found out about the fire through Snapchat. After hearing that no one was hurt, he likened the situation to Ray Bradbury’s novel “Fahrenheit 451” on Twitter.
“The Dusty Bookshelf was the spot of peace and solitude in a place where those two things are hard to find,” Krajicek said. “It was in Moro Street’s corner — both literally and figuratively. The Dusty Bookshelf helped provide Aggieville with a unique identity during Aggieville’s and K-State’s time of rapid change and franchising, and I hope we don’t lose that.”