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Here’s what to know about the four-story bookstore coming to Beacon Hill this fall

Beacon Hill Books & Cafe will contain a community gathering spot, a cafe, and lots and lots of books.  

A new bookstore is coming to Beacon Hill this fall, just in time for the back-to-school season.

The four-story Beacon Hill Books & Cafe, which is designed to feel like a home, will also feature a cafe on the first floor. Details throughout the shop, which is expected to open sometime after Labor Day, will focus on creating a space for community, from the home-like feel the operators are aiming for to the store’s mascot-of-sorts, Paige the squirrel. 

Melissa Fetter, the store’s founder and owner, told Boston.com that Paige, a loveable-looking squirrel with a bushy tail, is a cornerstone of the store’s logo and an integral part of creating magic for the children who visit the shop.

Photo courtesy Melissa Fetter. – Photo courtesy Melissa Fetter

She lives in the store and reads books at night, leaving an acorn on books she recommends, Fetter said. The next day, while Paige is out playing with other animals in the Public Garden, the recommended books are read during story time. 

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“We’re actually releasing a book that tells the story. … there is a squirrel named Paige, and Paige lives in the bookstore and reads the children’s books at night,” Fetter said. “But Paige very much has a presence in the store. … There will be a little window where you can look in and see Paige’s house. … She is a central theme to our story.”

The book is set to be released sometime in late September, after the store is up and running.

Fetter, a member of the WBUR Board of Directors and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Board of Trustees, lived in Beacon Hill years ago, but returned in 2019 and noticed there was not a bookstore in the community, a gap she knew she wanted to fill. She has spent the last two years working through pandemic delays and challenges to redo the interior of the building. 

Beacon Hill Books & Cafe will fill 71 Charles St., which used to house The Hungry I restaurant on the bottom and apartments above, Fetter said. 

“It’s so obvious to me that if there were a part of Boston that should have a great bookstore, it’s Beacon Hill,” she said. “It’s a known fact that bookstores thrive in communities that are full of readers that really desire to have a bookstore, and so I knew that I had a good shot of it being a successful endeavor.”  

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The first floor of the building will be the cafe, headed by chef Colleen Suhanosky of Brookline’s Rifrullo. The cafe will serve everything from breakfast, to afternoon tea. It will also boast a wine bar and sell cookbooks.

To start, the cafe will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. but will eventually serve dinner, Fetter said.

“It will be more than a typical bookstore cafe, it will be a restaurant — very high quality, and Colleen is a top notch chef and I think the community is going to really welcome our presence,” Fetter said. 

The next two floors of the Greek Revival building will be filled with general interest books, with special rooms for books dedicated to aesthetics as well as books to read while traveling. 

Climb the stairs one more floor to the fourth floor and you will find the children’s and young adult sections. 

“A lot of effort is being made to create a very magical spot, kind of reminiscent of what we have in our mind for the nursery in Peter Pan or Mary Poppins,” Fetter said.

Details include a fireplace and a model train that winds through rooms in its own, dedicated tunnel — all to make the experience as special for visitors as possible.

Rendering by Monika Pauli. – Rendering by Monika Pauli

Fetter said the hope is to make the bookstore have “an atmosphere that feels like a private home,” complete with nooks and crannies in the rooms and stairwell. It will also be accessible to all with elevator access. 

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Beyond the day-to-day operation of the bookstore and cafe, like many independent bookstores, Beacon Hill Books & Cafe will also host events and speakers. 

“We will have author talks, we will have experts come in and speak on really a wide range of topics, everything from history to parenting to art to cooking,” Fetter said. “I think there’s also just a natural community that forms around a bookstore — people coming and going and sharing ideas.”

Fetter said she hopes the store can be a gathering place for members of the community to find good books and conversation.

“One section of the store will be dedicated to what our neighbors are reading, so you can come in and get ideas of what to read next,” she said. “The bookstore really is for the community to embrace. I am sort of serving up the platform, but it’s really up to the neighborhood to take the concept from there.”

Though Fetter has no background in bookselling, the idea has been several years in the making. She said she is excited to work with the team she is assembling and welcome the Beacon Hill community to the shop.

“We have worked tirelessly for nearly three years,” Fetter said. “There’s so many small details in the store that I just can’t wait for people to see and appreciate. I’m really excited about what the reaction will be for the children. … At the end of the day, it’s meant to be fun, I’m doing this to share with the community and to be joyful in the process.”

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