New Venture Aims To Fill Void In Berlin

BERLIN – Berlin’s only bookstore came online last month, fulfilling a dream of the owners, when Steve and Suzanne Marcalus added 1,500 books to their Coffee Beanery coffee shop in the James Barrett Medical Building.

The Marcalus’ decided to reinvent their business recently, getting out of the retail pharmacy trade attached to the coffee operation, and adding bookshelves, thereby filling an empty retail niche in Berlin.

Suzanne, an avid reader who favors mystery and action-adventure novels, has always wanted to own a bookstore.

“Not having a bookstore in this area, I thought it would be a good idea,” Suzanne said. “To me, it’s a natural fit.”

“She’s always wanted to open a bookstore. This is her baby,” said Steve.

The Marcalus’ have removed the former retail pharmacy items, and customers can now browse and buy books, then enjoy their purchases on a couch, in the armchairs and at small tables, with coffee and a muffin at their elbow. The operation also offers free WiFi Internet access and a television.

“We had to kind of reinvent the business,” said Steve. “I had two choices. One was to shut the place down and sell it off, or reinvent the business…one of the things Berlin doesn’t have is a bookstore.”

The coffee, breakfast and lunch aspects of the business remain unchanged by the addition of the retail bookshop

In the first 10 days, the Coffee Beanery has sold roughly 10 percent of the book stock.

“So far, the bookstore’s been pretty successful,” Steve said.

He said he’s seen a lot of interest from customers who do not want to travel to Salisbury to buy a book.

At the moment, the store has roughly 1,500 titles in stock, with another 1,500 to be added in the near future. A small selection of used books is also available.

Books range from popular, current fiction and classics, to photography, cooking and biography. The store offers a 10-percent discount on all new titles.

“To be a full bookstore, you need more than just the quick reads,” Suzanne said.

“We’re trying to make it a little bit for everybody,” said Steve.

The Coffee Beanery can also pre-order upcoming titles and order in any book in print.

“We have access to all the titles,” said Steve.

The bookstore makes sense in that location, close to the Routes 113 and 346 crossroads, and located on hospital grounds, according to the local couple.

“This is becoming more of a surgery center. It’s become more of a destination place for people,” Steve said.

The couple plans to add a book club in May and host signings and readings by local authors and potentially visiting regional and national authors. They would also like to work with local artists. They hope to see customers of all ages and walks of life.

“We’d like to encourage high school kids, if they want to have meetings, book clubs here. We love to see the high school kids come in here,” Steve said.

Hours at the Coffee Beanery will expand soon, to open an hour earlier at 7 a.m., with the shop shut down for the day at 4 p.m. Beginning in May, the coffee shop and bookstore will also be open on Saturdays.

The coffee shop still emphasizes coffee drinks, sandwiches, salads and pastries, including genuine Smith Island Cakes, in addition to the bookstore.

“We really don’t have anything like this anywhere around,” Steve said.