Viroqua, Wis. — Driftless Books and Music is a bookstore and concert space in a warehouse in Viroqua, Wisconsin. In 17 years, Eddy Nix, the owner, has created a space that homes close to a million books. In non-pandemic times, Driftless hosts up to 100 music events a year and created a music collective that provides community for artists. After starting his own theater company at age 16 and then spending more than a decade traveling the world, Nix bought tens of thousands of books on eBay on a whim and started a bookstore in the post office building of a small town in Wisconsin. Within two years, the bookstore had lost one of its walls in a tornado and had multiple feet of water in the building from a flood. In an act of what Nix calls guerrilla philanthropy, a stranger gave him an abandoned tobacco warehouse in 2009 which was renamed The Forgotten Works Warehouse and Driftless Center for Slow Media. In the 15 years since, they have transformed the empty building into a community gathering space where people contribute to the inventory through donations and trades every day.
Nix appreciates that a used bookstore can act as an alternative to the hyper-capitalism and consumerism that surrounds us. While shopping in a bookstore, you can take your time and don’t need to buy anything. He also believes used bookstores have been spaces that support revolutionary movements and wants them to be a place that community issues get discussed. Nix spoke of the current extinctions of physical books that are happening under our noses as books become digitized and there’s a lack of a new generation that is motivated to protect these books. Every year, 320 million books are thrown away in the United States alone, the equivalent of 1 billion trees. Nix hopes to pass the bookstore on to young people in the community, envisioning the bookstore eventually being run by one of two local schools, Youth Initiative High School or Thoreau College. Nix hopes that Driftless Books and Music can help reignite excitement for literature and community in the eyes of younger generations.