Brookline Booksmith defied the odds and debuted a long-awaited expansion in the midst of the enduring pandemic.
The 58-year-old Coolidge Corner establishment officially spread out into the 4,000-square-foot neighboring storefront on Harvard Street last week. Along with more shelf space, the addition will house “The Novel Kitchen,” a book-themed restaurant slated to open in early November.
Co-owner Lisa Gozashti said the renovation is “leaner” than originally planned because of the economic and public health constraints brought on by COVID-19.
“We originally had grander plans," she said in a phone interview. “But I’m still proud of what it’s become. With bookstores, you’re offering comfort. You’re offering great food and drink, but you’re also offering something that’s humble and genuine and goes beyond the actual commerce aspect. That’s one of the reasons I’m here at Booksmith, because I feel like we always strive for a higher form.”
Employees moved the 100 top titles of the year, as well as the cookbook and children’s book sections, to the new space to create wider aisles and room for social distancing throughout the store. That way, “each section has a chance to shine more fully,” Gozashti said. "Browsing feels much more graceful.”
We certainly did! 👀We're now spilling over into 283 Harvard, with plenty more room to spread out, new safer registers, lots of cards, calendars, candles and--a personal favorite--this year's batch of World's Softest Socks. 🧦🧦🧦 https://t.co/Un2MrvlcqF— brookline booksmith (@booksmithtweets) October 27, 2020
With a web of cheerful string lights hanging overhead, the expansion is also home to new cash registers, and an area selling novelties and gift items like puzzles, fuzzy socks, and wrapping paper.
The new restaurant, the brainchild of Jenn Mason, who founded cheese shop Curds and Co., will operate as a “no-cook” space in the COVID-era. They’ll serve prepared foods from different local chefs, plus wine, cocktails, and plenty of good cheese. It will seat 16 diners (or 45 post-pandemic).
The bookstore has temporarily scrapped the idea for a communal meeting area with sofas, a fireplace, and an enlarged event space. Author readings have been taking place online at Brookline since spring. A few finishing touches, including multiple indoor murals by Norwegian artist Line Olsson and bathroom renovations, will be done within the week.
“We’re feeling very grateful for the support that we’ve had from the community," Gozashti said. "But it’s also tentative — one step at a time — because there’s no certainty. We’re placing our trust in the community and the work that we’ve done.”
In a time when businesses, especially bookstores, are struggling, Gozashti said the expansion is “good news ... a light in the darkness.”