“A smoke, a book, a cup of coffee. These are the little things that get us through this sometimes weary world and all the rainy days.” – R. M. Engelhardt
Curling up with a good book and a nice mug of coffee is a wonderful way to spend a lazy afternoon or a rainy day. Which is why many bookstores open coffee shops or serve coffee in their establishments. But like a really good brew or a really good book, it can be challenging to get the mixture just right. Either kind of establishment has different requirements for success. Bookstores could need popular or niche literary selections and coffee shops need excellent equipment and supplies. For the literary-minded, caffeine aficionado, a little understanding and a few helpful tips can nudge them toward the winning combination.
Of Books and Brews
Bookstores are still going strong and even increasing in numbers. According to the American Booksellers Association, the number of independent bookstores in the United States is on the rise. A decade ago, there were only 1,651 stores in the Association. That number grew to 2,320 affiliated stores by 2017, during a time when digital forms of entertainment have become more prevalent.
People have attributed this economic recovery to bookstores offering readers more than just books. Some stores cultivate the ambiance that they’re comfortable places to hang out with friends. Others help readers connect with people who love the same books and characters. There are also bookstores were customers can sip craft beer or a glass of wine while perusing the stacks.
But coffee and books have a special relationship that goes all the way back to the ’50s. It was a time of beatniks discussing countercultural ideas and new forms of poetry over steaming cups of coffee. The trend continues today, and book lovers can flip through their favorite novels while breathing in the aroma of a fresh brew.
Brewing Without Breaking the Bank
Entrepreneurs who want to use caffeine to perk up their bookstores should heed the following advice.
Start small. Rather than going all the way and opening a full-scale coffee shop in the bookshop, start small. A single espresso machine or even just a normal coffee maker can be a small but smart investment. Employees could offer a free cup of coffee with purchases of certain amounts. Eventually, the business can save enough resources for bigger steps, like the equipment for a small kitchen.
Simple menu. The menu of a new coffee shop/bookstore hybrid should focus on only a few items, rather than a wide selection. Extensive options of beverages and meals require weeks, if not months, of training for the employees who’ll be preparing them. More food items also mean that the owner has to invest money and space on appliances, like ovens and refrigerators.
Minimal staff. A simple menu and a small operation mean that the bookstore doesn’t have to hire a lot of people to run the coffee shop part of the establishment. The original book store employees could even handle both sides of the operation, given enough training and compensation.
Combining two businesses is a challenging feat. Like the best coffees, it requires patience and skill to yield the best result. But done right, the best products of either process are among the most satisfying things in the world.