Billed as "indispensable guides to stylishly unique, locally owned eating and shopping," the eat.shop series is a natural for the independent bookstore customer. The guides, created by Kaie Wellman and self-published under her imprint Cabazon Books, have a stand-out, simple design, and highlight about 90 local restaurants and shops in each of 20 city guides.
The guides focus, as the name suggests, only on eating and shopping, and only on local venues. "We're not into the big and splashy places," said Wellman. "We're more into the small and authentic. It doesn't matter if it's New York or Paris, that's what makes a place really cool."
Wellman, who studied editorial, book, and magazine design at New York's Parsons School of Design, launched the first eat.shop guide for her native city of Portland, Oregon, in 2003. "I got the idea when I watched a lot of my friends, and my husband, all who have fantastic, small, locally owned businesses, struggle to compete against more and more chains moving into Portland. I was frustrated with the local press, which talked about Portland in terms of cliche beer-drinking, coffee-drinking, hippie Oregonians. All the factors came together for me to do a guide."
Wellman dove in, not only doing all the research, writing, and photography herself, but printing 10,000 copies. "I had no distributor, no nothing. I wasn't coming at it from the book trade," she said, underscoring her neophitism. She began by taking a thousand copies to Powell's. "I talked to the frontlist buyer six days before Christmas -- my timing was really banner -- and he said, 'These are really good! I'll take five.' I said, 'Did I miss some zeroes?'"
While Wellman did have that brief "Oh my God, I'm completely screwed" moment, orders and press coverage "just rolled from there." Initially planned to be a one-off book, the series, now distributed by Independent Publishers Group, includes guides for Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Austin, Chicago, Brooklyn/NYC, Philadelphia, Boston, Rhode Island, Phoenix, the Twin Cities, Atlanta, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., London, Paris, Montreal, Vancouver, B.C., and Denver (October 2008). Wellman also now employs a staff of three, who do all the research, writing, and photography for the guides they each produce.
Booksellers staying at Hotel ABA for this year's BookExpo America will have the opportunity to pick up a copy of eat.shop los angeles at the Day of Education registration desk. Wellman's "eat" recommendation for downtown L.A. is the "fantastic" Pacific Dining Car. "It's open 24 hours and is an L.A. institution," she said. And for "shop," Blends is great.
This year will be the first that eat.shop guides will be featured in a booth at BEA (Booth #925 as part of IPG). All 20 titles and a couple of the authors will be there. --Karen Schechner