September 30, 2013

Baltimore bookstores expanding food & beer offerings


Red Emma’s Bookstore & Coffeehouse is moving to a larger space, where they’ll offer food, wine, coffee, and beer along with their book selection.

Joining the ranks of places like BookBar in Denver, two of Baltimore’s best known independent bookstores have decided to expand beyond the usual refreshment offerings of scones and lattes. Atomic Books and Red Emma’s are both expanding beyond their current spaces to offer more in the way of booze and meals.

Judith Rosen writes for Publishers Weekly that Atomic’s co-owners Benn Ray and Rachel Whang had been wanting to add a space for beer in their store — known for its selection of graphic novels and pop culture titles — for some time. They seized the opportunity to expand into the space next door when a boutique vacated it, more than doubling its size. As of this month, they’ve been offering beer (and only beer; no food or coffee) at what they’re calling the “eight bar,” since it’s plastered with Daniel Clowes’s Eightball comics.

The addition to Atomic Books has allowed Ray and Whang to be a bit more creative in scheduling events as well. No longer feeling restricted to host only authors with new releases, they’ve instituted the Writers Under the Influence series, a reading series that pairs two poets to discuss their work with each other.

Red Emma’s, meanwhile, has used the magic of crowd-sourcing to offer a more immersive experience. The worker-owned bookstore raised just over $30,000 on Indiegogo in order to move to a much larger space. The new location is more than five times as large as the original, with an area of just over 1,000 square feet dedicated to books sections, which cofounder Kate Khatib is eager to expand. She told PW that where they’d previously stocked “must-haves,” they’ll now be able to offer more comprehensive selections in categories such as philosophy, political theory, queer/GLBT, political fiction, art, and avant-garde literature.

Per the Red Emma’s Indiegogo page, they’ll be adding a full kitchen to the store, as well as roasting their own coffee (in partnership with Thread Coffee), and providing a classroom and meeting space with the Baltimore Free School. The goal, Khatib says, is to create an environment where customers can spend their whole day: “Come in for a cup of freshly-roasted coffee, browse the books, meet friends for dinner, stay for a book talk or a Free School class, buy a signed copy of the author’s book, and then finish the day with a nice glass of organic wine or cooperatively produced beer.”

Red Emma’s has pushed back its scheduled opening from October, but they are hosting several preview events next month and have author talks lined up and ready for when the store opens its brand new doors.


Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.