History of Tattered Cover

Bringing People and Books Together Since 1971


Tattered Cover is the largest independent bookstore in Colorado with eight locations in and around Denver with the eighth location newly-opened in July 2022 in downtown Colorado Springs! We host more than 500 author and community events each year, sell a diverse selection of new and used books, magazines, Tattered Cover apparel, and offer a wide choice of unique gift items. We are a Denver institution, a community gathering place, and an experience you can't download.

Tattered Cover was purchased by Bended Page LLC in December 2020.  Bended Page is owned by local Denverites David Back (pictured left), Kwame Spearman (pictured middle), and Alan Frosh (pictured right).  Bended Page is guided by an advisory board that includes Oren Teicher, former CEO of the American Booksellers Association and outgoing Macmillan CEO John Sargent.  Back and Spearman "see Tattered Cover as more than a bookstore. It’s a place where memories are made and where everyone should feel at home."  Their vision for Tattered Cover includes growing opportunities for community engagement, connection, and conversations all happening within the Tattered Cover walls, but also more directly in the community, and are eager to bring this vision to reality over the coming months.

The previous owners were Len Vlahos and Kristen Gilligan, who had purchased Tattered Cover from long-time owner Joyce Meskis in 2015. Vlahos and Gilligan said it was of "paramount importance to ensure that Tattered Cover be placed in the hands of an ownership team who values the power of this special place and what it means to the community."

Previous owners Len Vlahos and Kristen Gilligan are lifelong book industry veterans. Both worked in independent bookstores on the East Coast, and both worked for the American Booksellers Association (Len as the Chief Operating Officer, Kristen as the Director of Meetings and Events). Kristen also consulted for the American Booksellers for Foundation for Free Expression, and served on the 2019 National Book Awards judging panel for Young People's Literature. Len also served as Executive Director of the Book Industry Study Group, a board memember for the International Digital Publishers Forum, a board member for EDiTEUR, and is the author of four traditionally published young adult novels. 

Len and Kristen purchased the stores from the long-time owner, Joyce Meskis, in 2015. During her tenure as owner, Joyce was one of the guiding forces of independent bookselling in the country and a stubborn advocate for the rights of readers, literacy and free expression in America. She was the recipient of many prestigious awards for intellectual freedom including the William J. Brennan, Jr. Award for the Protection of Free Expression given by the Thomas Jefferson Center in Washington D.C.; the PEN/Newman First Amendment Award from the PEN American Center in New York; The Privacy International Brandeis Award; the American Library Association Award for Free Expression; and The Author’s Guild of America Award for Distinguished Service to the Literary Community. 

Tattered Timeline 

The first Tattered Cover Book Store opened in Cherry Creek North on Second Avenue.
September 1974:
Joyce Meskis purchased the Tattered Cover, which consisted of 950 square feet of retail space with two employees.
The Tattered Cover expanded seven different times into adjoining retail space.
January 1983:
Our second location opened one block east of the "Old Store." Both locations were retained for a single operation. The "Old Store" housed bargain books, sidelines, and some office functions. The new location housed general retail operations and receiving.

November 1986:
We move into the Tattered Cover's new 4-story location at the corner of First Avenue & Milwaukee Street in Cherry Creek.
August 1990:
All of our shipping and receiving operations were consolidated into the newly-purchased Historic LoDo warehouse buildings at 16th and Wynkoop and 16th and Wazee streets.
September 1990:
Our administrative offices and functions moved into the Historic LoDo building on Wynkoop.
October 1994:
We opened a small bookstore in the Historic LoDo building on the corner of 16th and Wynkoop, complete with a coffee bar and a newsstand. Nov. 1994:
Our cafe opened on the first floor of the Cherry Creek bookstore.
March 1995:
The Fourth Story Restaurant & Bar opened on the fourth floor of the Cherry Creek location.
October 1996:
The LoDo bookstore expanded to over 20,000 square feet of retail space, an author appearance and special events space that can seat over 300 people, and a full-service coffee shop.
July 2004:
Plans to open a third Tattered Cover location in Highlands Ranch, Colorado are announced.
November 15, 2004:
The Highlands Ranch Tattered Cover opens just in time for the holidays!
January 2006:
Plans to move the Cherry Creek store in June to a newly renovated historic Lowenstein Theater are announced. Plans to close the Fourth Story Restaurant & Bar are also announced.
May 2006:
The Fourth Story Restaurant & Bar closes for business on May 31 after 11 wonderful years serving Cherry Creek and Denver diners.
June 2006:
On June 24, the Cherry Creek store is open for business for a final Saturday. The store closes early to begin the move to its new home, an old renovated theater on Colfax Avenue in Denver, east of downtown.
Tattered Cover on Colfax opened for business at 9 am on June 26.

Early in 2010: Tattered Cover bookstores began selling used books, now a significant part of our inventory, along with new and bargain books.

2011: Celebrating 40 years in the book business!

2014: Tattered Cover satellite stores open at Denver International Airport, Concourse A, B & C, in partnership with Hudson Booksellers.

July 2014: Tattered Cover commuter store opens at the newly rennovated Historic Union Station in Lower Downtown.

March 2015: Joyce Meskis announces that book-industry veterans Len Vlahos and his wife, Kristen Gilligan, will join the senior management team of Tattered Cover on July 1, 2015, and acquire a controlling interest two years later on July 1, 2017, when Joyce will retire and move to a consultant role with the stores.

April 2015: Our Highlands Ranch store moves into its beautiful new home at the Aspen Grove Shopping Center.

July 1, 2017: Joyce retires and Len and Kristen assume operational control of the business. 

December 9, 2020: Len Vlahos and Kristen Gilligan sell the store to local Denverites (and former high school debate rivals) Kwame Spearman and David Back.

January 2021: Celebrating our 50th anniversary!

May 2021: The historic LoDo location moves to the new McGregor Square 5 blocks away

Spring 2021: Two new locations scheduled to open.

January 2022: The new Westminster location with full bar and cafe opens!

Summer 2022: Colorado Springs location opens with full bar and cafe in the heart of downtown Colorado Springs making this our first location open outside of the Denver metro area!