Hockessin Book Group Eats Drinks Reads

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The Eat Drink Read Book Group watches as Chef Mark Eastman prepares a meal inspired by The Kitchen House.

Rebecca Dowling knew there was demand for a book group among her customers at Hockessin Book Shelf, but she wanted to spice it up and make the gathering different from a typical in-store discussion group. Inspired by IndieBound’s Eat Sleep Read slogan, she called her group Eat Drink Read (EDR), because, she said, “it’s exactly what we do!”

Participating customers read the trade paperback book chosen for the month, and then the group meets at Chefs’ Haven, a local gourmet food shop that holds cooking classes. There, Chef Mark Eastman provides a meal inspired by one prepared or eaten by characters in the book.

“EDR is a great book group, and it’s been a wonderful way to partner with local businesses,” said Dowling.

Celebrating its two-year anniversary this May, the Eat Drink Read Book Group has been immensely successful for the Hockessin, Delaware, indie. The store now holds one dinner group and one lunch group per month, with an overflow discussion-only group meeting at the local coffee shop, The Perfect Cup.

Customers that are interested in participating join the store’s EDR e-mail list, which has grown to 160 people. The first nine that RSVP to the e-mail invitation are able to attend that month’s discussion and meal. The cost to participate is based on the price of the book and the meal. Customers purchase the package at the bookstore, and it is rare that they do not pick up more than just the EDR book, said Dowling.

“It has definitely helped us share customers,” said Dowling. “I know that some of the participants in the book group end up taking other classes from Chef Mark, and his walk-in customers find out about the bookstore from his class schedule. We are both very small independent businesses, so it is a win-win for both of us.”

Additionally, the creation of the book group has increased the number of new books sold in the store. As a small, new and used bookstore, Hockessin typically sells a few copies of new trade paperbacks. Now, it sells about 18 - 28 copies, if it is an EDR book.

Among many other titles, the group has read Cutting for Stone, which was paired with Ethiopian cuisine, and The Kitchen House, paired with pork chops and collard greens.

A Southern-style meal inspired by The Kitchen House.

“My personal favorites are…” Dowling said. “No, I can’t decide. We have had amazing food each month, and the discussions have always been stimulating. The customer response has been fabulous. And it takes so much pressure off me, because we often hear, ‘Even if we don’t like the book, the food is always good!’”

Read more about stores that have successfully incorporated food into their inventory mix in a BTW story from earlier this month.