Friday, July 13, 2012

My Old College Spot--Trident Booksellers & Cafe--Expanding

When I went to college in Boston, you could often find me in one of three places: Boston Billiards, Jamba Juice in the student union, or Trident Booksellers & Cafe on Newbury Street.

My friend Jasmine and I would sit in the back corner of the cafe with our books, studying and chatting, chowing down on homemade pasta dishes and berry cobbler and sipping delicious herbal teas. There was also a teeny tiny little mouse we'd spot occasionally. He wasn't a gross mouse, surprisingly--not like the one that lives behind my kitchen cabinet and won't fall for my traps *shudder*--he was actually quite cute. I named him Hermon. Anyway, when I needed a break from my studies (or from writing an angry email to an ex/boyfriend, which happened twice at that back booth) I would comb the stacks of the bookstore, looking for  nothing in particular, just enjoying the shelves and the bindings they held.

So, when I saw Trident in a headline on Publishers Marketplace today (catching up on my publishing news!), I was terrified that the shop was closing its doors. I was ready to cry. But upon reading the entire headline, I was happy to find that it is, in fact, doing the opposite--the store is expanding, according to the Boston Herald:

Boston’s last independent new bookseller is growing at a time when other neighborhood bookstores and even large chains have succumbed to online book sales and e-readers.

Trident Booksellers & Cafe, an eclectic fixture on Newbury Street since 1984, will be 50 percent larger when it spreads out into the second floor of its Back Bay building by September.

“We just want to expand seating, expand retail — just make everything bigger here,” said manager Courtney Flynn, daughter of founders Bernie and Gail Flynn. “We’re going to be moving sections around, expanding some book sections and also adding a lot of gifts and games.”

The Flynns settled on a bookstore-cafe back in ’84 because there were few places to sit down with a cup of coffee or linger over a conversation or book. And that combination has helped Trident withstand industry changes that have forced the likes of Borders out of business.

Trident’s expansion, which will add 1,500 square feet to its 3,000-square-foot operation, is fueled by a brisk weekend brunch business in its 80-seat cafe. New seats with a Newbury Street view, and a bar with beer and wine taps, will be added upstairs.

“Brunch, especially when the students are here, is very busy,” Courtney Flynn said. “We have long waits, and the whole store is packed, so we’re kind of aiming to relieve that.”

There’s a symbiotic relationship between the bookstore and cafe parts of Trident’s business. “We wouldn’t have one without the other. Books really create the atmosphere here ... and we do sell a fair amount,” Flynn said.

“It’s definitely a dying industry in a certain way, but there’s still a lot of people who enjoy reading real books instead of e-readers, and people who like to browse and discover something new,” she said. “Just touching new books and experiencing that is something we have to offer.”

Bookstores that serve as a broader destination seem to be faring well, said Steve Fischer, executive director of the New England Independent Booksellers Association in Cambridge.

“There’s a lot of stores ... across the country that would kill for room or a license to have a cafe or have a wine bar,” he said.

Still, Fischer views Trident more as a cafe that sells books. “If you go in, you don’t go, ‘Aha, what a great bookstore,’ ” he said.

James Hill, chairman of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay, called Trident a “wonderful” neighborhood resource. “It’s great to see they’re surviving in the bookstore world,” he said.

Read the original article HERE

Next time I visit my old stomping ground, you know where to find me.

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