BookBar — “A book shop for wine lovers. A wine bar for book shoppers”— is set to open its doors this month in the arts district of Denver, Colorado, at 4280 Tennyson Street. The store will feature a menu of wine, beer, tea, coffee, hors d’oeuvres, and desserts to be served alongside an inventory of thousands of handpicked titles.
When Nicole Sullivan, a former reporting analyst, saw the The Bookery Nook, a Denver ice cream shop and bookstore, shut its doors last year, she put her idea of a book and wine bar into motion. Sullivan’s main goal: to provide an experience for her customers. “It’s so important to find a model that’s sustainable in this technological world,” she said. “You have to search for what you can offer that online and box retailers can’t. The thing they can’t offer, and will never be able to offer, is an experience. They can’t talk with people face to face, share a glass of wine, host events, or have a sense of community. We focus on the experience aspect.”
New to the bookselling world, Sullivan attended Winter Institute 8 in February as well as the ABA Booksellers Forum in Boulder earlier this month. She found that meeting fellow booksellers at these events was the most helpful aspect of her research. “By just talking with different booksellers and seeing their passion, I came back energized,” she said. She also signed up for the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association’s mentor program to get assistance and advice from a veteran bookseller in her region.
Several conversations at Winter Institute about the curating of book inventory stuck with Sullivan. She decided that she wanted her stock to be carefully crafted, with the focus on books that she would personally recommend, as well as titles ideal for group discussions. “I want to offer a well-curated space, where books are very obviously hand-picked, and thoughtfully hand-picked, not the bestsellers you find at Target,” she said. BookBar will be selling Kobo e-books as well. “We want to offer everything that Amazon does — offer all the convenience while giving people the option to keep their money local,” said Sullivan.
One of BookBar’s biggest draws will be its Book Club Hub. Sullivan explained that many of the homes in the neighborhood are small and incompatible with hosting book clubs, yet book clubs are incredibly popular in the area. The store’s space will be available for book clubs that want to register for time slots, and Sullivan will coordinate group orders and discounts for chosen titles. Book club picks will be on display in the store, as well as a monthly wine and book pairing recommendation.
Author events at BookBar will be a unique experience, said Sullivan. She is in talks with a local theater that will help host major authors that come through, but for events at her store, the food and wine will make the experience stand out. BookBar’s first author event in June will be for a local author and her new cookbook, and attendees will get to enjoy watching the author demonstrate recipes in the store’s prep kitchen.
Having attended culinary school, Sullivan is no stranger to fine foods. She has hired a professional chef to assist in the menu creation and is committed to using primarily local ingredients. She also hopes to eventually start a garden out back to grow some of the menu ingredients. “It doesn’t get any more local than that,” she said.
Sullivan is highly committed to keeping close to the local community and is making the bookstore space available to host community meetings and neighborhood associations. BookBar will also serve as a donation spot for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and will have a Little Free Library book exchange box in front of the store. Sullivan also runs a community book exchange, now in its fourth year, which she plans to expand.
Situated on a pedestrian-heavy section of the Berkeley district, known for its art galleries and creative vibe, the bookstore is opening in Sullivan’s dream location. “It makes all the sense in the world for a bookstore,” she said. “I think often books get overlooked as an art form and a bookstore has a huge place in an art district. This has to work because it’s so perfect.”