MANCHESTER, NH – Who doesn’t love a good story with a plot twist and a happy ending?
Consider the non-fiction work, Bookery Manchester, the independent bookstore at 844 Elm St. Thanks to its bodacious brainiac owner, Elizabeth Hitchcock, the well-designed space quickly became a cultural vortex for the community after opening in the spring of 2018.
Like-minded souls found both solace and stimulation from the stacks and each other. The roster of author readings/signings straight out of a book lover’s fantasy.
Add prosecco on tap along with a few kindred beer and wine labels for sipping with a menu of bakery, lunch, and dessert offerings and every trip to Bookery became an experience.
Friends met friends there. Or made new ones. Ogling books for the works of art they are – inside and out – and purchasing those you were drawn to for your personal collection became the new norm, defying national trends and celebrating old ones. Analog style.
Bookery Manchester was the it place.
Until, suddenly, it wasn’t. Until the evil antagonist, COVID-19, tried to wreak havoc on the sublime.
Literary types might call the subsequent chapter an interesting plot twist. Hitchcock calls it a pivot.
“To succeed under these new conditions, we needed to change our niche,” she said, “we asked ourselves, ‘what could we do that was entirely different than what we had done before or what our neighbors were doing?’ We wanted to invite some excitement back.”
With an approval for food, wine, and beer already in hand, Hitchcock took her belief in the symbiosis between great books and great food to the next level. She had read about Steven Freeman, the guy who had recently purchased Angela’s Pasta & Cheese Shop in the North End.
“Bookery reached out to me on a Thursday and started offering a selection of our gourmet pasta salads the following Tuesday,” said a smiling Freeman standing near a refrigerated display case at Bookery Manchester chock full of all kinds of goodies from Angela’s kitchen.
In addition to pasta, there are lots of interesting green salads including my summer fav: watermelon, feta, greens, red onion, and pine nuts. Cheese lovers will appreciate the cheese boxes with nuts and fine, imported olives. And, Angela’s cookies? You can order some just for you or in volume – like everything else that Angela’s offers – and pick it up at Bookery Manchester.
Their outdoor dining space is as inviting as their indoor space what with aesthetically pleasing picnic tables, umbrellas, and just the right potted plant panache. Just the right al fresco vibe for enjoying the Bookery/Angela’s menu.
Freeman may be smiling, but Hitchcock is clearly the heroine here.
“You can view the C-19 issue as an opportunity or a barrier,” said Hitchcock, “I thought, by taking a gourmet approach, it would offer our customers something unique but it also gave a local business – Angela’s – a unique opportunity to expand its business while helping ours.”
Freeman concurs. “The stars were aligned, for sure.” He goes on to explain the irony of his business plan, wishing to partner with compatible businesses at some point but not imagining it would happen so soon or so seamlessly.
“I see Bookery Manchester as an extension of Angela’s Pasta & Cheese Shop,” said Freeman, “And, given the nature of Manchester’s downtown and nightlife, the eventual return of performance venues like the Palace Theatre, people want a place that’s open late for a Prosecco and a little decadent dessert; or some wine with fabulous cheese and olives, something to round out that night on the town!”
One month in and the books and gourmet pairing at Bookery Manchester remains on the best-sellers list.
The Bookery is located at 844 Elm St. in Manchester. Hours are Tues. – Sat., 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.