Greg Heffley, his best friend Rowley, Mom and Dad, “Roderick Rules”, and the “Cheese Touch”. With his widely acclaimed “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, author and cartoonist Jeff Kinney created a kind-hearted and empathic lens through which millions of people could nostalgically view their own childhood.
Kinney’s adopted home town of Plainville, MA, was in need of some kindness and empathy too. The town’s iconic Falk’s Market General Store – the nerve center of the town for more than 150 years – was long vacant and in an advanced state of disrepair. So Jeff and his wife Julie bought the property with a vision of restoring the building and reinvigorating the downtown area. Unfortunately, the building wasn’t structurally sound and had to be demolished.
Through their partnership with Bergmeyer, however, the Kinneys’ dream of reestablishing the social and commercial hub of Plainville became a reality in the building known as 111 South Street. Inspired by historic American general stores, colonial era New England wharf buildings and Falk’s Market itself, the building is anchored by an independent bookstore named An Unlikely Story.
The store is designed to evoke wonder from children and adults alike, with a field of enchanted flying books leading to replicas of Harry Potter’s flying brooms chasing the Golden Snitch. The children’s corner – complete with colorful kid-size stools and tables – is a place for the younger set to learn, play and enjoy story-time. And adults can curl up in cozy leather chairs to peruse their intended purchases.
111 South Street is much more than a bookstore – it’s also a meeting spot and gathering place for the community. A wide front porch – a nod to the one previously at Falk’s Market – is a place to meet neighbors or watch a local holiday parade. And a café brings friends together over food and drinks while listening to local live music.
The building’s second floor features a large, open function space designed to accommodate events ranging from book signings to community meetings to yoga classes, along with offices for Jeff’s staff. The third floor is where the magic happens – where Jeff brings Greg and his friends to life.
Where possible, items saved from Falk’s Market were incorporated into the design of the building. The Market’s front doors have been repurposed into furniture for the offices; wooden crates found in the basement now serve as display cases in the bookstore; and a raggedy old pink stuffed elephant that sat in the window of the abandoned building was transformed by Jeff into the logo for An Unlikely Story.
While the Kinneys wanted 111 South Street to evoke Plainville’s past, they also wanted it to be as sustainable, high-performing and technologically advanced as possible. The building is designed to be 45% more energy-efficient than a similar building and is equipped with a small rooftop solar array and an electric vehicle charging station. Flooring was reclaimed from an old Nutty Buddy factory in Dorchester, MA, and ceilings were brought in from a demolished Kentucky tobacco factory. Furniture was made from wood salvaged from the 2004 Indonesian tsunami and repurposed slugs from a letterpress. “Everything”, Kinney gleefully says, “has a story to tell.”