Bouquets, Books and Burlesque at the Petals and Pages Bookstore

Petals and Pages bookstore denver

“There’s a need for two things in Denver—community spaces and a growing literary scene,” says Dylah Ray, owner of Petals & Pages in the Santa Fe Arts District. Ray is tending to these needs with beauty and inclusion. A clean open room dotted with pinks and florals—freshly cut and hand-painted, Ray’s bookshop itself is a work of art: an intentional first step in community building. “We deserve a beautiful space,” she says. “We want a place where valuable, joyful community work is done together—and the space should reflect that.”

The aesthetics are built into the name, and Petals & Pages is both a queer bookshop and a florist. “I have been a writer for a while—more as a hobby, than as a profession. I have also been a baker and was interested in baking with botanicals,” Ray explains. “What’s fun about Petals & Pages is that these once were ‘side projects,’ not my main career ambitions, but I came to a point where I realized, they were the things I was passionate about. The things that kept me going. I wanted them to become the primary focus of my life.”

Petals and Pages bookstore Denver
Petals and Pages bookstore in the Santa Fe Arts District. Photo provided by Petals and Pages.

In pursuing her passion for natural beauty and literature, Ray has simultaneously built up the community space she felt her fellow Denverites were yearning for. “First and foremost, we are a community gathering space where we want everyone to feel comfortable, safe, free to express themselves through book choices, the arts, taking a class or meeting new people.” Members of the community have rushed to fill up the available spots for Bookstore Burlesque, for example, a dance class with local dancer and musician, Sophia Eliana. There are “paint and sip” classes, open mic nights and craft parties, among many themed book clubs, including queer lit, poetry, queer horror, fantasy and The Next Chapter, a gathering for individuals 60+. “We have a wide range of events because it’s fun to be in a bookstore. What we are saying is: a bookstore is a sexy place.”

Dylah Ray, Petals and Pages bookstore owner
Dylah Ray, owner of Petals and Pages bookstore. Photo provided by Petals and Pages.

Part of creating a welcoming community gathering place has been making extra space for marginalized groups. “Specifically, we are fostering an environment catering to LGBTQIA+ and other people underrepresented in literature in the past. We try to feature books by authors left out of historical or current discussions.” Petals and Pages prominently features LGBTQIA+ authors and ensures that 50% or more of the stocked titles are penned by authors of color. “We’re trying to bring voices that have always been present, but not widely available or celebrated, to the forefront. You might be able to find these books in other stores, but they’re not prominently displayed. We welcome those communities with what we view as ‘our stories and our voices’, and it’s critical right now in this age of book-banning, in particular, to share stories about the LGBTQIA+ community and racial justice.”

And while Ray has a finger on the pulse of the national scene, Petals & Pages is always bringing it home to Denver, to the local community and its needs. “There is tons of local talent in Denver; local authors and artists looking for a place to call home.” Petals and Pages hosts regular author talks and readings with members of the local literary scene and also offers special consignments for local authors selling their books. As part of the Santa Fe Arts District, their doors are always open for First Fridays, bridging the gap between visual arts and literary arts. “We have put a lot of attention into our art program, and our art director, EmmaMay Beers, curates a rotating monthly program for artists to sell in our store.”

Petals and Pages bookstore
Quiet writer’s corner at Pages and Petals bookstore. Photo provided by Petals and Pages.

In a time where the Denver art scene is exploding and remaining local, many literature lovers, both writers and readers, are eager to celebrate the written word as art. “Denver is really hungry for that right now,” Ray agrees. “There’s a big need—and we are seeing big growth,” and Petals & Pages is a stunning part of that development.

Petals & Pages is located at 956 Santa Fe Drive. For more information visit or follow on Instagram at @petalsandpagesofdenver.

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