Brookline Booksmith, the 58-year-old beloved indie bookstore in Coolidge Corner, will take over a nearby Verizon store, transforming a 4,000-square-foot space into both an expanded retail section and a cafe with a full liquor license in the summer of 2020.
The opportunity first arose when Booksmith’s landlord, who also owns the Verizon property, mentioned that the space might become available when Verizon’s lease ends on June 1.
“To the best of my knowledge, it’s been quite a long time since anything adjacent to us has been available, so it’s a pretty unusual occurrence,” said Booksmith co-owner and manager Peter Win. “Just that alone made it something that we really had to give some serious thought and consideration. The store has been here a long time and people love the space, but we’ve pretty much maximized what we can do with the space we have.”
Win said that the decision to add a restaurant was, in part, due to exploring other revenue streams.
“What we’ve learned over the years is that just adding inventory doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to add sales,” he said. “So when you start looking at more space and more rent, food and beverage certainly comes up. Many independent bookstores in the country have added cafes or simply coffee in some way, and that’s something we really had to consider looking into.”
Details about the cafe’s menu and hours of operation are still in development, though Win confirmed that the cafe and/or bar area would be separate from the store, and that the hours would be similar or slightly less than the bookstore’s current hours. The liquor license means that beer, wine, and cocktails will all eventually be available — and the bookstore’s owners weren’t the only ones happy with the new acquisition.
“When the [Brookline Board of Selectmen] announced we were approved [for a liquor license], the room basically applauded,” Win said. “Both the lawyer we were working with and the architect said they had never seen that before. We really appreciate that kind of support. What we’ve heard from people is that people support our store, but also they support us being able to do more and being able to expand, to hopefully bring even more life to Coolidge Corner.”
Neither a chef nor a bar manager has been tapped, though Win said that the cafe will most likely be staffed separately from the retail section. They have, however, tested out an expansion by setting up a six-week holiday pop-up shop, which ends on New Year’s Eve, in the former Peet’s Coffee next door.
“It was an opportunity to experiment a little bit and to do some different things,” Win said. “Once it all came together — even just walking by it at night and seeing life in that space — I think a lot of people really responded positively toward that. That also gave us more ideas and confidence that, yes, people are happy about us doing more in the community if we can.”
Once Verizon ends its lease in June, the plan is for Booksmith to embark on a three-month buildout, with a goal to open in the fall.
“In the 50-plus years this store has been here, it’s been a long time since there’s been a chance to do this,” Win said. “So the chance to further grow the store and change what we do — and do more — is really exciting for us.”