Strong Start for Denver’s BookBar

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Two months after opening, BookBar in Denver, Colorado, is thriving, and owner Nicole Sullivan is happy to be achieving her mission to provide an experience for her customers, one that they cannot get through online retailers. Sullivan told Bookselling This Week in April, “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.”

Now that the store has been open a couple of months, “we’re starting to get into a groove,” said Sullivan, who is running both the bookstore and the bar that make up BookBar. “It’s been especially complicated because it’s essentially like running two different businesses. It’s been a challenge to keep up with the book side and the bar side.” But the book selection, bar options, artisan menu, and in-store events have taken off, and the community is responding with resounding praise.

New customers to BookBar have taken easily to the bar, said Sullivan, and she encourages patrons to take their drinks and wander through the shelves of books. The bookstore staff has taken on some of the inventory selection, and Sullivan has been very happy with the recommendations they send her way. “They’ve been pretty spot on about it,” she said. “We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback about the selection we have. People say, ‘This bookshelf is like my bookshelf at home!’”

In addition to book clubs, BookBar has hosted knitting clubs and study groups, and the bite-sized food on its menu has been very popular. The store’s regular Happier Hour event draws families in for a children’s program on weekday afternoons while parents get to partake in drink specials. “We’ve been getting really creative in the bar and having a ton of fun making spritzers and sangrias,” said Sullivan.

Author events have also sparked community interest, with the store packing in customers to see authors read and demonstrate recipes in its commercial kitchen. “Every time we have an event it’s a great sales day,” said Sullivan. BookBar is also seeing its first regular customers, and Sullivan takes that as a great sign.

BookBar is hosting an upcoming Book & Wine pairing, a community book club that welcomes anyone in to chat about a popular book selection for the month. Sullivan hopes to bring new people into the store to meet fellow community members and make some new literary friends.

Sullivan’s goal of bringing people together around the written word was achieved, she said, at one particular poetry reading while a thunderstorm raged outside. As the poet lifted his arm to illustrate a pivotal moment, a massive crack of thunder echoed in the sky, throwing the entire audience into a fit of laughter. “This is exactly what I intended to do, to bring together a whole room around poetry or literature… to see everybody laughing together,” said Sullivan. “This is it, this is what I wanted.”