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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Bookends & Beginnings opens new minibar to foster ‘literary hospitality’

Kaavya Butaney/The Daily Northwestern
Bookends & Beginnings opened a minibar last year as a part of a trend of bookstores across the country opening bars and cafes.

Following in the footsteps of many bookstores across the country, Bookends & Beginnings opened a minibar in the store’s basement last June, stocked with cocktail cans, wine and cookies.

According to owner Nina Barrett, after the store moved from Bookman’s Alley to Orrington Avenue, she saw an opportunity to bring a new experience to customers. The store’s previous location did not have plumbing, which made it impossible to run any kind of food service.

“I have reconceptualized Bookends & Beginnings in this space as a literary hospitality business,” she said. “So it isn’t just about the object, the book, the product that is on the shelf, and coming in and buying a book, it’s about the whole social experience.”

In March, the store hosted author Özge Samancı and a literary trivia night, both of which gave the minibar a lot of business, Barrett said. In the near future, she said the store will host city staff and Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) for an Envision Evanston 2045 community meeting.

According to Bookends’ bookseller Wren Romero, who organized the literary trivia night, being able to serve alcohol mimics the environment of a bar — which is where trivia is typically held. During trivia nights, Bookends has offered specials and catered to a specific bibliophilic crowd, Romero said.

“People are starting to think more about books as a social activity rather than a solitary activity,” Romero said.

According to former events manager Kate Harding, the first night they had the minibar, the staff was unexpectedly swamped. Some crowds drink more than others, and she said the first night taught her how to run the bar and what drinks are more popular.

Despite some initial fear, Harding said customers have been very responsible.

“Nobody’s coming to the bookstore to get loaded,” Harding said.

While Barrett said most of Bookends’ audience is groups attending events, some come to the bookstore alone to enjoy wine and peruse a stack of books. Since the store currently closes at 6 p.m., Barrett said there is less business. She said Bookends plans to change the closing time to 7 p.m. soon.

The bar itself is stocked with single-serving wine bottles from Wild Child, and Barrett said it took some effort to find cute, single-serve wine that actually tasted good. The single serving allows for less waste because opening a whole bottle usually leaves some leftovers.

The minibar will keep its size and not offer its own cocktails for the foreseeable future, since Barrett said Bookends is primarily a bookstore and having a full bar would entail an entirely different staff.

Barrett said the store is prioritizing literary hospitality because she wants people to think about book buying in a different way. 

“We spend a lot of time trying to … explain our value proposition as a bookstore,” she said. “Why should you be buying books from us if it costs you more than buying books from Amazon? We know that every single customer is having that thought process.”

However, Barrett said the store brings more value to the community than just a single book. She said many students come to the store for some peace and quiet during exams, and others come for events.

“For me, the bar is an enhancement of our being — not just a place where you buy books, but a place where you come to be among books and among people who love books,” she said.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @kaavya_butaney

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