This time of year calls for soft sweaters, warm drinks and good books. Imagine sitting at a cozy bookshop, in a soft leather chair, beside a fireplace mantel that flickers with the lights of a set of burnt orange candles.
At Book Club Bookstore and Wine Bar, just off East Third Street, this can be a reality. On Nov. 9, Erin Neary and Nat Esten opened the doors of Book Club. Bookstore after two years of planning. Book Club is an independent bookstore offering both caffeinated and alcoholic beverages alongside its shelves of titles. Esten said he and Neary met at a book club in the East Village.
“When we first met, she came into our book club as a new member, and there was a book that I hated and she loved, and we fought about it all night,” he told WSN.
Esten explained that though neither of them had experience in retail, they merged their individual skill sets and sought help from local bookstores and publishers. They even had to learn how to make coffee and apply for a liquor license.
“I run my own business, but that’s in music,” Esten said. “Erin has a lot of background with marketing, working for startups […] as far as retail business, as far as opening a bar […] that was all new to us, and it took us a fair amount of training and catching up.”
The pair has lived in the city for about 10 years and noticed a lack of public places for people to unplug. Esten and Neary have cultivated a cozy, old-school atmosphere in the store, complete with dim lighting, vintage lampshades, velvet armchairs and soothing music. The literary theme extends to the bathrooms, with walls lined with pages of Esten and Neary’s favorite books.
These include “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling, “The Secret History” by Donna Tatt, “Rules of Civility” by Amor Towles and “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott.
“I think that we’re unique because of those stylistic elements, and then it’s also just kind of rare that you find a bookstore that also has beer and wine and coffee,” Pim said.
Book Club’s literary selections cater to a wide range of audiences. Though Neary and Esten personally prefer fiction, the shop carries titles from a variety of genres, including biography, memoir and travel — they have a little something for everyone.
Esten and Neary are actively reaching out to the community through event programming as well. They held their first poetry reading Nov. 19 and are also planning trivia nights, game nights and author readings.
Fully executing Neary and Esten’s vision for the store is still a work in progress. As of now, the store is only offering coffee, but wine and beer will soon be added to the menu. They will also be extending opening hours and debuting an outdoor patio in the spring.
“We all spend too much time staring at screens,” Esten said. Though the store has free WiFi and people are welcome to use their electronic devices, he hopes that Book Club will encourage people to unplug for a few hours by sitting back with a good book and a cup of coffee, or even a glass of wine.
Book Club is located at 197 E. Third St. and is open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
A version of this article appears in the Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, print edition. Email Dani Herrera at [email protected]