On Friday, September 30, Beacon Hill Books and Cafe opened on Boston’s famous Charles Street. This is the first new bookstore to open nearby in nearly 30 years. A visit to the bookstore on its opening day revealed that it was looking for more than just an ordinary business, it was curated and decorated with magic.
Just an hour after opening, the store was packed with customers exploring its nooks and crannies. Children checked books, customers chatted with staff, and many posed for selfies before photogenic displays.
It is clear that every inch of space has been carefully designed. The first and second floors give the impression of tailor-made apartments rather than retail spaces. Soaring bookcases painted pale blue on the walls and tables display a selection of novels. Flowers adorn the crackling fireplace. Scattered throughout the store are small chairs that invite customers to sit down and start reading.
The third floor, dedicated to children and teenage readers, seems to attract the most attention from visitors. There’s a shiny red button on the wall that says “PRESS ME”. When requested, the steam engine whistles and appears on the bookshelf. A little squirrel — the store’s mascot, Peppa — sits in the conductor’s car. By the fire, small chairs surround a miniature tea set. A small child-sized door with a golden door knocker invites young visitors to walk through and peruse a book nearby.
The magical quality of this store is obvious to visitors. Two shoppers browsing the shelves, Nikki Stone and Kass Aitken, commented on their experience at the store. “It’s so cute!” Stone said.
Aitken likens entering the store to an “Alice in Wonderland” experience. It was a joy to walk through that door from the street,” Aitken said. It really felt like stepping into a new world, designed to be inviting.
In an interview with The Harvard Crimson, owner Melissa Fetter revealed the inspiration behind her design: “I worked with great architects, local architects — Pauli & Uribe Associate Architects — and an interior designer named Cathy Kincaid, Then I was passionate about aesthetics and interior design,” Fett said. “I think the retail businesses that are booming today thrive because you make the space so compelling that people will choose to come into the store and make a purchase, rather than do something more convenient and go online from a company whose name can’t be Order mentions. You have to be really fun to get people in. That’s what we do.
Fetter is new to the world of running a small business, but she believes her background has given her the experience she needs to make Beacon Hill Books and Cafe work.
“I worked at JPMorgan for many years and then spent 20 years doing a lot of philanthropic work, chairing the boards of different art museums and, you know, being very active in the community,” she said. “But somehow all these experiences came together in a way that prepared me to be a small business operator. And because I don’t have a background in retail or book sales, it meant I was able to A very fresh eye to see everything and see it through the lens of the consumer.”
The space is expected to be a source of attraction for visitors to the city, with locals equally excited about the opening of new businesses. A resident named Erin Buechele said: “I live on this street and every day I walk down Charles Street I get a peek and I’m excited. I love independent bookstores and I think everyone should support They. And, I’m glad the cafe is open.”
The cafe mentioned by Buechele will soon be open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. Fetter estimates the space will be ready within a few weeks.
While the bookstore and café are located in Beacon Hill, Fetter makes it clear that this is a space for those in and out of the community:
“This is a bookstore for all of Boston and people traveling to Boston. Our book curation and the programming we’ll be offering are inclusive and welcoming to everyone,” she said. “I hope your readers will find us a great excuse to walk through town and enjoy all that Beacon Hill and the adjacent area has to offer.”
The store also provides a space for students who wish to enjoy books in a comfortable atmosphere. Fetter hopes it will rekindle the magical experience that reading can bring.
“I want to inspire a lifelong love of reading. I think it’s very important. I think we can do that: we can make it fun, we can get people in and they can discover for themselves. How good reading is A gift,” she said.
Beacon Hill Books and Cafe is located at 71 Charles Street. When its cafe officially opens, it will be announced on the store’s Instagram page @beaconhillbooksandcafe.