April 17, 2013

Books & booze at a new Denver store


Last week, Sydney Jarrard wrote on the American Booksellers Association’s Bookselling This Week that Denver will soon have a new literary destination. BookBar, a new store that bills itself as “a book shop for wine lovers” and “a wine bar for book shoppers,” will offer up wine, beer, coffee, tea, hors d’oeuvres, and desserts in addition to books—both hard copies and Kobo e-books.

Onetime reporting analyst Nicole Sullivan got the idea for the book/wine bar from the Bookery Nook, a Denver bookstore that doubled as an ice cream shop until it closed down last year. Not an experienced bookseller herself, she attended the ABA’s Winter Institute and enrolled in the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association’s mentor program, which matches people launching new stores with booksellers that are similar in size and inventory so that they can learn the business from established bookstores. And when it comes to inventory, Sullivan has specific ideas of what she wants to offer, “with the focus on books that she would personally recommend, as well as titles ideal for group discussions.”

Sullivan hopes to make BookBar a destination for gatherings, including unique author events; the first one planned for this June will be with a local cookbook author who will perform a demonstration in the space’s prep kitchen. She’ll also cater to book clubs, which are very popular in the area but not always able to find a usable space in their members’ homes. To that end, BookBar will feature a Book Club Hub, a space that local clubs can register to use at a specified time so that they have a place to gather with books and a glass of wine.

Above all, Sullivan’s goal is to create a unique experience for book lovers, one that sets it apart from big retailers. She described her vision to Bookselling This Week:

It’s so important to find a model that’s sustainable in this technological world… You have to search for what you can offer that online and box retailers can’t. The thing they can’t offer, and will never be able to offer, is an experience. They can’t talk with people face to face, share a glass of wine, host events, or have a sense of community. We focus on the experience aspect… I want to offer a well-curated space, where books are very obviously hand-picked, and thoughtfully hand-picked, not the bestsellers you find at Target… We want to offer everything that Amazon does—offer all the convenience while giving people the option to keep their money local.

An independent local business that’s going to provide wine, snacks, and books sounds like a perfect storm of good ideas; BookBar is scheduled to open its doors this month in the Berkeley district of Denver.

Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.