Left: Liz Cipriano, left, and Liz Hitchcock. Right: The children’s room at The Bookery. Photo by Christine Carignan.
When Liz Hitchcock and her husband, Jeremy, who cofounded Dyn (now Oracle + Dyn), landed in Manchester a decade ago, the city’s downtown did not offer much on weekends beyond a few restaurants and a bar scene, which was not their thing. “We wanted some place quiet that was like a home—a couch in the middle of the city,” she says.
Between a growing business and a growing family, life was hectic for the couple, but after Dyn sold, they had some breathing room to revisit their ambitions. When Alpha Loft, a business accelerator program, announced it was changing its business model and leaving its downtown office space, Hitchcock connected with a new friend, Liz Cipriano, and the two found they shared a dream of opening a bookstore that could act as a community gathering space. “There’s this new generation looking to interact in a different way and interact with the community,” Cipriano says.
They acknowledge that some people thought they were “nuts” to open a bookstore in the age of Amazon, but once they opened the doors to The Bookery in May, those naysayers changed their tune, realizing that “this is what the community needed,” Cipriano says.
The Bookery has quickly become the community gathering space the duo envisioned, hosting not only authors for book signings, but musicians, politicians and community events.
Hitchcock and Cipriano are proud of the special details they offer customers. The Bookery has guest curators from the community who receive displays of their favorite books.
The children’s room at The Bookery. Photo by Christine Carignan.
It has a separate young adult room as well as a special kids’ room with a large tree that sprouts up to the ceiling with twinkle lights, under which kids and parents can gather and read. Another nook offers a virtual fireplace with chairs to lounge around.
One reading nook includes a virtual fireplace. Photo by Christine Carignan.
The profit margin on books is slim, so The Bookery offers other services to enhance revenue as well as the customer experience. These include hosting events and birthday parties, and offering a café that provides small meals, shareables and homemade treats such as donuts. There is also a book club room with an entire wall of magnetic poetry tiles for fun, and a television that allows clubs to Facetime with authors.
The cafe at The Bookery. Photo by Christine Carignan.
“We have surprise and delight around each corner,” Hitchcock says. “We want people to wander with their minds and their eyes.”
Cipriano says The Bookery offers an extensive selection of books, and if they don’t have what a customer is looking for in stock, they can order it and have it within two to three days. Their staff (they employ 16, four of whom are full-time) is always happy to make recommendations. “We help you find a little bit of the best of everything,” she says.
Hitchcock says the store has hit its projected numbers in its first few months of operation, but what she really finds rewarding is seeing the reactions of people the first time they walk in. “You hear an audible wow, and they smile and you see them pointing,” she says. The Bookery has already amassed strong repeat business, the duo says, and people are bringing their friends on return visits.
The Bookery is just one idea Hitchcock and her husband have developed as part of a larger community-building project they envision. They have a Twitter campaign to solicit ideas for businesses that people would like to launch downtown with the hashtag #crazymhtidea that they may help fund.
“We believe so much in this community-building project. We have a lot of ideas. We want other people’s crazy ideas,” Hitchcock says. “We love Manchester and its trajectory.
Maybe we can accelerate it.” Hitchcock says they have other projects in the works, including supporting the recent launch of Peddl, a downtown pedicab business, by Mike Cashion. They also commissioned artist Vivien Beer to create bike racks shaped like cats that will be installed in front of The Bookery and in the famous “Cat Alley” around the corner.
For more information, visit bookerymht.com.