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Indy English teacher bringing new life to former home of the Thirsty Scholar

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Restaurant space at the southwest corner of 16th and Pennsylvania Streets in Indianapolis has sat empty for five years. That’s about to change.

The bustling intersection was once home to the Thirsty Scholar, a thriving corner spot for morning coffee and work meetings or evening wine and conversation. Thirsty Scholar abruptly closed in 2018 with plans to reopen. It never did.

Now the flashy Thirsty Scholar marquee has been replaced with subtle window decals for Dream Palace Books & Coffee, which will soon open in the same space.

Taylor Lewandowski grew up in Indiana, graduated from Butler University, and is now an English teacher at Herron High School. Lewandowski, his father, and his grandfather took over the space earlier this year with the goal of creating a very specific concept — expanding the literary scene in Indianapolis.

“I have wanted to own (and) run a bookstore since I was a teenager. Being at a bookstore was a way for me to connect to a world outside of me because I grew up in a more, kind of, ‘narrow’ Christian childhood and I was kind of always seeking more outside of that and that connection came through literature.”

Lewandowski says Dream Palace will have a bookstore that will be comprised of mostly used books, some new books, and events like readings from local and national writers and will have a heavy focus on the LGBTQ+ community.

“I think it adds to the idea of mirroring the culture around me — who I am and what I want this space to be. I think being able to access books that you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to find is really important to me, especially because some of them are just so good.”

Lewandowski says he has spent the last few years buying thousands of used books from all across the country through estate and library sales.

Dream Palace will operate somewhat like a used bookstore of old. Lewandowski invites people to donate their used books or receive a discount on a new, used book. There will also be an online store that will feature higher-end, more expensive selections.

“I think once you see the space, it’s a space that isn’t what you will find in Indianapolis. It’s very open, very bright, sort of modern. I really want it to be like you step into this space and not only is it you’re maybe being rooted in Indianapolis, but it’s also rooting you. It’s connecting to maybe these larger cities some global ideas.

“I really want it to be competitive in the way it feels as a bookstore. Walking in it as if you were walking into a bookstore in New York City. I want it to be comparable in that way.”

Lewandowski says Dream Palace will also have a “robust coffee program.”

The cafe will serve an array of caffeinated creations using beans from local roaster Tinker Coffee. Co. It will also offer burritos from Love Handle and salads and sandwiches from Yamallama. Michaela Shuff will be the café manager. She was most recently at the popular Rabble Coffee on the city’s near east side.

Lewandowski says the bookstore will be in a separate back room filled with books primarily, but not exclusively, from Midwest authors.

Dream Palace will also host events like readings and book launches and have “low-key” live music from time to time.

One of Lewandowski’s former Butler professors will be one of the first to be showcased at Dream Palace. Susan Neville will read at the bookstore cafe’s grand opening in October. Neville is an author born and raised in Indiana who heavily focuses her writing on life in the Midwest.

Neville is one of the best writers Indiana has, according to Lewandowski.

“Her stories. Her essays. She has this great memoir of taking classes in iconography. She’s just a great writer. She writes about living in Indianapolis like no one else has. She stayed here. She never really left Indianapolis.”

A soft opening is set for September with a Grand Opening to follow on either the first or third weekend in October.

Location and hours

  • Dream Palace Book & Coffee
  • 111 E. 16th St., Indianapolis
  • Monday – Saturday, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.