Huxley & Hiro Is a Must-Visit Bookstore in Wilmington

A fateful meeting leads two friends to open their Huxley & Hiro bookstore on Market Street.

Imagine this scenario: Two graduate students find themselves seated side by side during a flight from San Francisco to Eugene, Oregon, where they both lived. An instant connection sparks between them, and a decade later, they become the proud owners of a charming bookstore nestled in the heart of downtown Wilmington. While this tale seems plucked from the pages of a captivating novel, it’s not a work of fiction.

Little did Claire van den Broeck and Ryan Eanes know when their paths crossed in 2012 that they would one day become business partners. “We just immediately felt like we had been friends forever,” van den Broeck says. “There is such a thing as platonic friendship at first sight.” Call it kismet, fate’s gentle nudge or the universe orchestrating a narrative fit for the shelves of their own bookstore.

Soon after, Eanes landed a job in Delaware. During a visit from van den Broeck in 2017, he introduced her to a Wilmington gem, the Ninth Street Book Shop. The closure of this beloved store would serve as the catalyst for the bibliophiles’ shared inspiration—to eventually open a place of their own.

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Huxley & Hiro
Academics and authors Ryan Eanes and Claire van den Broeck are behind Wilmington’s new downtown book shop, Huxley & Hiro, where readers can discover diverse genres and a thoughtfully curated selection of novelty items. Photo by Joe Del Tufo

Initially, the pair set their sights on Leo & Jimmy’s Delicatessen, a space that had been for sale for ages, but they ultimately missed out. “Somebody made an offer earlier that same day that we tried to buy it,” van den Broeck recalls. But luck stepped in again. Eanes spotted a For Sale sign above 419 N. Market St. in 2019.

Now Huxley & Hiro—a bookstore named after her cat and his dog—the building needed more than a face-lift. “It looked like you walked straight into the 1970s,” van den Broeck says of the original interior, which featured wood paneling and extremely low drop ceilings. Their contractor stripped the ground floor entirely, uncovering gorgeous brickwork with an additional historic detail: “We found out that the [interior] brick wall is the original exterior wall from a bookstore that opened in 1793. Their advertising is still painted on it on our second floor,” she shares. (The store was inside what is now the La Fia building.) The duo also aimed for a warm and contemporary façade; a fresh coat of cobalt blue paint finished the job. Finally, on October 27, 2023, six years after purchasing the building, they opened their doors to the public.

The shop showcases a varied book collection meticulously curated by its founders, whose diverse backgrounds and interests offer an array of reads to captivate an equally eclectic audience. “We just wanted to give people a chance to find something new, to discover things,” van der Broeck says. They’ve also taken a thoughtful approach to store merchandising. “We’ve tried to make it an open space with many books facing outward. A lot of bookstores have bookcases stacked floor to ceiling with lots and lots of spines,” she notes. “That can feel overwhelming.”

Although business is bustling (Sundays can see up to 100 customers), its founders maintain academic day jobs. Eanes is a professor of advertising at the Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University; van den Broeck is an adjunct professor in Southern New Hampshire University’s graduate program in literature and teaches Dutch remotely for the University of Oregon. Both are also authors.

Van den Broeck’s husband, Jason Reisbick, proved to be an ideal choice for store manager with his background in retail and logistics. The couple recently moved into one of the apartments upstairs. While books are its obvious specialty, the space often hosts community events, including local artist spotlights and monthly book club meetings.

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For van den Broeck, Wilmington has surprised her. “It’s great meeting so many wonderful, positive people,” she says. “I don’t think I really understood before moving [here] that the community would be that supportive.” While Hiro is commonly seen snuggling in the upstairs bay window, visitors can look out for Huxley, who will soon be relocating from Oregon.

For more information, visit huxleyandhiro.com.

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