The coffee-shop bookstore is an urban tradition that almost vanished with the advent of the big-box bookstores in the 1990s, the rapid spread of Starbucks and the ease of online book purchasing. But with niche marketing and a specialized catalogue, the neighborhood book-and-coffee purveyor can still make a living. At least that's the hope of Ben and Kevin Gillies, father-and-son owners of the soon-to-open City Stacks Books and Coffee in LoDo, who plan to specialize in literature specific to urban living.
Ben Gillies was originally targeting a mid-September opening, but as is often the case, minor delays have pushed the date out. "As I look around the space and the construction going on, it's looking more like the first week of October," he says. The location previously housed corporate offices, so while the two aren't planning a full menu with a kitchen, a fair number of changes needed to be made to the location to get it ready for serving Corvus Coffee and pastries from Cake Crumbs Bakery delivered daily, in addition to seating for about 30 customers and shelves for the books.
With a background in urban design before making the leap to retail, Gillies says his book selection will focus on urban architecture, design, geography and other interests of city dwellers -- topics such as container gardening, urban lifestyles and sustainable food. He also plans to offer regular events, but not necessarily standard author appearances or books signings. Looking around the neighborhood, he sees immediate opportunities for building neighborhood relationships. "We could bring in the chef from Jax, for example, to talk about sustainable seafood," he says, with books on the topic available for customers after the presentation.
Hours have not yet been set, but 7 a.m. will be the likely opening time. Gillies says he has been spending time in the evenings around the store to get an idea of traffic after the five-o'clockers head home. In the meantime, he and his staff -- basically his dad, girlfriend and any other willing friends -- are getting training and tips from the coffee brewers at Corvus, who he says are perfectionists when it comes to serving coffee. He's also expecting a La Marzocco espresso machine to be delivered from Italy any day now.
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Despite the proximity to -- as Gillies puts it -- "about nineteen Starbucks downtown" (not to mention the venerable Tattered Cover a few blocks away), he hopes City Stacks will draw a customer base from the condos and apartments mushrooming all around downtown.