Special to the Times
After Covid-related delays, the long-anticipated women-owned independent bookstore and café, Beacon Hill Books & Café, is set to open its bookstore at 71 Charles Street within a week with the Café to launch in late October or early November.
We were fortunate enough to benefit from a sneak preview of the store and café with the owner Melissa Fetter and her book and culinary staff, and can only report superlatives.
The renovated brownstone, formerly the home of the Hungry I Restaurant and apartments above, has been lovingly restored with class, charm, and whimsy. The narrow vertical space provides three sales floors of books, with a café on the garden level, complete with small outdoor dining area. The first floor is dedicated to new releases and fiction, with a special home for Paige, the fictious squirrel mascot who lives in the store. Young book readers will be charmed by Paige, for whom the bookstore has commissioned a special book. Stay tuned for news about the upcoming celebration of Paige’s book release and birthday celebration. Children have more literary surprises in store for them on the third floor, with sections each dedicated to first readers, elementary readers, and young adults. Each has been decorated with the different age group in mind with even a miniature choo-choo train circulating above. The second floor covers non-fiction, with the main room dedicated to biographies, memoirs, and general interest, as well as books on relevant current topics. If a book being sought is not in stock, the store will order for customers on a bespoke basis. The second floor also dedicates a section to the largest collection of aesthetic books at an independent bookstore in the area, focusing on decorating, design, gardening, and beautiful coffee table books, according to the book staff. The back part of the third floor is devoted to travel, featuring not only typical travel guides, but books related to interesting areas of the world, including must reads set in one’s travel destination.
The creativity of the book selection is refreshing and targets offering books that one has interest in buying before reaching the store, but also books that one didn’t know existed, but upon review, comes home to be read as well. Over time, the book staff intends to continue to tailor and adjust the inventory both seasonally and as they get to know the tastes of their customers. One can envision adding the Beacon Hill Books & Café as a Holiday shopping destination. A few cushioned benches on each floor and overstuffed chairs for the children will promote relaxed browsing of the inventory.
The café is overseen by Colleen Suhanosky, a Culinary Institute of America alumna, who has honed her skills and creativity at the Gramercy Tavern in New York, at Sfoglia in Nantucket, with Lydia Shire at Biba, and as head chef and owner of Rifullo Café in Brookline. If the taste test of last week is accurate, foodies starved for fresh dining choices on Beacon Hill will be delighted by the cuisine. Tea will be an enormous success if the cookies and brownies are like the ones tasted last week. In the Fall, the Café will be open for breakfast, lunch, tea, and the cocktail hour, as the café has a beer and wine license, with supper to be offered in the new year. Proper tea will be a featured repast, complete with elegant, tiered servers of tea sandwiches and sweet treats. For those enamored of the tea, tins of the café’s tea will be for sale, along with a limited selection of carefully curated nonbook items, such as candles. In season, a small back courtyard will extend the Café seating, although the entire dining space is likely to accommodate only thirty or more patrons.
If customers are interested in more formal dining for a small group, the Café will be offering private dining events in the second-floor book selling space, providing a sense of dining in a beautiful library. Using a long refectory-style table, a group of up to about twenty people may be accommodated, and the café will be offering the opportunity to choose from among several styles of table settings from the store’s Sister Parish décor and accessories, as the bookstore and café have chosen the classic, but light and airy, Sister Parish line as their primary design. Several private events have been scheduled already, including some corporate board events and a rehearsal dinner.
Store hours will be 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday and 12 to 5 p.m. on Sunday until the cafe opens. When the cafe opens, the planned hours of the Book Store will be everyday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. except on Mondays.