Can an old-school bookstore not only survive but thrive in the age of Amazon and e-readers? Beacon Hill Books & Café owner Melissa Fetter is convinced.
Melissa Fetter doesn’t have a favorite book. Surprising to the owner of a new bookstore in Beacon Hill? Maybe. But, she says, that only benefits the shop, which stocks page-turners for readers of all ages and interests. “I really enjoy reading in all genres,” says Fetter. “One day I may read a very serious book on economics, and the next day I’m reading a lighthearted summer romance. I’m not biased.
It’s just one of the many things Fetter hopes to help her boutique, Beacon Hill Books & Café, stand out from the competition. Another biggie: The business, which debuted last month, is the only bookstore in the neighborhood. In fact, that’s what inspired Fetter to launch it in the first place. After returning in 2019 to Beacon Hill, where she and her husband lived in the mid-1980s, Fetter was shocked to find there was no room for local bibliophiles on Charles Street. So she created her own. “I had this vision in my head of a bookstore…that felt very residential in many ways,” says Fetter. “It’s not like a mall where you walk in, and there are four walls, libraries, end of story. I wanted to curate a really special space.
And, objectively, she did. Encompassing five floors of a 19th-century townhouse remodeled by Pauli & Uribe Architects and Cathy Kincaid Interiors, Fetter’s Bookstore is a fresh departure from its local counterparts. Custom sculptures by carpenter Laurent Robert line the painted shelves, each bearing gold leaf signage that announces categories such as “On the Water” – dedicated to surfing and sailing. Elsewhere, window seats and upholstered furniture, including pint-sized pieces on the kids’ floor equipped with a toy train, provide cozy perches for reading volumes on home decor and travel . The shop even has a café on the ground floor which, from this month, will start serving tea. (Fetter plans to add breakfast, lunch and dinner by January 2023.) “It’s almost a bookstore straight out of a storybook. There are a lot of unexpected pleasures as you walk through the floors,” says Fetter. “We really want the experience to be compelling.”