With print going out of style and the modern reader in front of a screen, books are a way of the past – but is that true? Smaller independent book shops like the BookBar on Tennyson St. have been popping up, providing the community with a place to read, write, talk or just be. Nicole Sullivan, shares how her unique vision of wine and books gets customers through the door – and coming back for more.
The BookBar provides a relaxed, intimate setting with your two favorite things: books and wine. It invites people to come together and share ideas, which was Sullivan’s original intention – to gather groups of people, especially book clubs. “Book clubs are usually described as wine clubs,” she laughs. “A lot of book clubs don’t really want to meet in coffee shops for that reason because you can’t drink wine.” At the BookBar any fees that may normally occur for author events or study groups can be offset by the price of liquor. “If you look around here, there aren’t very many marketing signs. We don’t have a lot of posters about what we are selling because I want it to feel like you’re sitting in a friend’s apartment or your own living room.”
They reserve space for their book clubs every night and each club holds space for two hours. “It is important for people to have a space outside of their homes and outside of work where they can meet and talk for longer than an hour’s dinner service where they have to turn the table and get the next people in the door.”
“We serve all colorado beer and even local wines. We go outside of the neighborhood for most of our wines because we want to bring in Chilean, Argentinean, French and Italian wines,” she says. They also source their coffee, tea and bakery items from local or organic vendors: Corvus Coffee, Teatulia Tea, and La Patisserie, a bakery in Aravada.
They just contracted with Little Raven Farms, an urban farmer in the neighborhood for their produce, after meeting them at Denver’s annual Local Food Summit hosted by the Mile High Business Alliance. They prep everything themselves and do as much local and organic as possible, right down to the cash register caramel candies.
The BookBar carries a diversity of good writing. It’s not just the top best-sellers, but also the titles from the Indie Next List, compiled by indie book sellers across the US, classics, and local authors. “I want to provide a curated, thoughtful selection that is literary and book-club focused,” says Sullivan. They will suggest your next reads to be based on a deeper level where you can discover good literature and good writers, unlike Amazon, where a book suggestion is based on an algorithm that keeps the reader pegged to a certain style. Local authors who may have self-published and want exposure can participate in the consignment program to have their books on the shelf for six months and receive all the proceeds.
The brainchild behind the BookBar…
“I believe strongly that if you’re a reader, it will make you smarter,” says Nicole Sullivan, passionate owner and avid book clubber.
“Books will make people better.”
She had suggested adding a bar to the financially-strained book shop that was there before her, but when it closed and her kids went to school full-time, she swept in with a new way of bringing reading out to the community. “I’d always had an idea in the back of my mind of combining books and wine because it’s such a perfect combination.”
She further develops the literature community by partnering with First Book Denver and Reading Partners Denver in order to provide literary support to kids. The shop is a donation location for books and will distribute them to the local food banks and Colorado’s Coalition for the Homeless.
After celebrating their one year anniversary on May 31st, Sullivan comments on the success of the shop. “The greatest joy has been having my vision for what I ideally wanted come to be. It’s drawn in the people that are looking for something like this and has brought a lot of regulars.” With success like this, they already have plans to expand. You can expect the back to become a patio with a fireplace, holding an outdoor garden with tables and hammocks, in addition to a children’s room and a private meeting room for groups.
Come in every Thursday for a kid’s story hour combined with a happy hour for the parents, or join them every Tuesday at 7:30pm for Book Trivia (winner gets a free book and crown). Friday nights have spritzer specials and Sundays serve Sangria. You can also enjoy half-off drink specials if you come in and read for Silent Reading Happy Hour one Sunday a month. Check out their events calendar here.
Sign-up for their newsletter. Start or join a book club at Sullivan’s new website Book Club Hub to either register your book club or get matched into one that fits you. You will get 10% off your book club’s bottle of wine at your meetings.
The BookBar also hosts author readings, local author showcases and monthly poetry series, which takes place every second Saturday at 6pm (happy hour starts at 5pm). This Saturday June 7th, Laura Pritchett will be signing on her book Stars Go Blue and poet Bill Tremblay will be reading from his Magician’s Hat. Come join them for a drink, browse the shelves, and get inspired.
Suggested Summer reads…
For the pool: Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson
“My son begs me to read it every night and he won’t read it without me.”
For a rainy day: The Painter by Peter Heller
“Its spare storytelling speaks to the average person, western and masculine, and I can’t put it down.”