Over the past two years, through our personal addiction to well-brewed caffeine, we formulated a friendship with Sandy, who owns the excellent cult-favorite The Espresso Bar. We both opened around the same time, and we quickly became fans of each other’s businesses. I remember the first month Literati opened and, in need of coffee, I walked into The Espresso Bar and saw a Literati bookmark taped to their coffee grinder. Since then, we have collaborated: We ran a ticketed Coffee Tasting event in our store, offered Espresso Bar coffee during our weekend-long One Year Anniversary Party, and we have each spent a lot of time in each other’s businesses. We have also watched each other’s respective business needs grow: When Sandy first opened The Espresso Bar, it was never really intended to be more than a pop-up shop. When we imagined readings on our lower level, we didn’t imagine how events would close off half our inventory (non-fiction) half the evenings we were open. We realized we shared one commonality: We both needed more space.
A few months ago, we thought, “Wouldn’t it be neat if we could somehow combine our businesses? To open a lively events space that included coffee and books?”
Thus brings us up to speed, and to our exciting announcement: Last Friday, we signed a lease to take over the top floor of our building! Sandy and The Espresso Bar will move in, serving primarily espresso and coffee, as well as some pastries. We will run readings and events upstairs on a floor with air conditioning (!), no creaky wooden floors above (!), beautiful exposed brick walls, and windows that overlook Washington and Fourth Avenues. Expanding to the top floor allows us to expand our inventory on our lower non-fiction level. Hopefully, we will expand science, math, philosophy, and psychology sections, add more books, and more curated book displays. Also, by expanding to the top floor completes what we believe is the final step of our store’s vision:
To be a place where people gather.
Early on, it became clear very early that our space was limited. The first floor was filled with books, tables, and displays. The lower level had a few tables, but we had to keep the space relatively open so we could host readings and events. We love the vibe of our store. But we also imagined it a place people could mingle, or, conversely, just wander into a corner of the store and sit and read. On nights when readings took place, this wasn’t possible. When there were readings, some nights, you physically could not get downstairs.
Now, we can add inventory and seating on our lower level. We can have a dedicated events space with a bigger capacity. And we can offer some of the best coffee in town, produced by people who are passionate about coffee and know coffee.
A little more on The Espresso Bar: Sandy shares our belief that a great community like Ann Arbor needs a great community space. In a short amount of time, he has quickly established himself as one of the best coffeemakers in Ann Arbor, not only because of a quality product, but because he takes the time to get to know customers, their favorite drinks, as well as providing a friendly, intimate, and personal environment. He has a rabid following.
By partnering with The Espresso Bar, we can afford to open a space that is mutually beneficial: We can have a dedicated events space, improve and expand our inventory, and Sandy can expand and grow The Espresso Bar. We can continue to enhance each other’s businesses, and hopefully be a great space for all of Ann Arbor.
We are really excited about this. We believe that this huge step will complete our store’s initial vision. We love books. And now, we have someone on board who knows and is passionate about the coffee business and who can enhance our readings and events. With this partnership, the entire building at 124 E. Washington will be a destination for anyone looking to surprise themselves, browse books, have a cup of coffee, and hear some of the nation’s top literary talent. We are so excited to do this, and so excited that we soon won’t have to say to people wandering downstairs, “Sorry, but there’s a reading going on…” when all they want to do is browse our psychology, cooking, or history section.
Sometimes I like to wander outside at night when the bookstore is fully illuminated. I stand there and I look at the lights and people mingling inside. Now I imagine the entire building lit up at night, with a reading upstairs, and people sitting next to the windows and sipping coffee and reading and writing and meeting each other. It is a vision that feels right in that it makes this entire building come alive, adds vitality to an already bustling street corner, and hopefully adds to the vibrancy of downtown Ann Arbor. We are so happy to announce that we are expanding to the top floor of 124 E. Washington, thrilled that Sandy and The Espresso Bar wants to be part of it and set up shop on that top floor, and hopeful that we will have a beautiful space for what we believe will be a special and beneficial partnership for years to come.