Shakespeare & Co

Shakespeare & Co.

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“What’s in a Name?” asks Juliet in Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. What’s in a name indeed: calling a bookstore Shakespeare & Co without a single Shakespeare book in sight?

The answer is simple. Calling it Shakespeare implies that this is an excellent bookstore, worthy of the exalted name. Mindful of their clients,  the store features monthly programs that range from “Story time” in the morning to ”Creative Writing Workshop”  in the evening, with  “Author’s Talk” and poetry sessions in between. If you like, you can design the cover and print your book in store. Supervised by manager Christian Melhado, the staff will help when needed. Textbooks are in the basement.

Espresso Bookstore Cafe

However, since my interest of the place is primarily in their café, I walk to the back of  the store and secure a table. At the counter, I order the soup of the day- gazpacho -the ready-made, wrapped Penne with Mozzarella in a Pesto Sauce, and cappuccino. Returning with my food, I settle down and look around.  Arranged by categories, I am sitting between philosophy and the children’s corner, complete with small tables and chairs.

When I return a week later on Wednesday afternoon, the place is  packed. I stand in line to order my food. They are out of soup and too busy to make cappuccino. I settle for regular coffee and manage to secure a seat at one of the front tables which are so close to each other, I can practically read my neighbor’s writing. Few people are eating. With their tech devices plugged in, the students of nearby Hunter College are doing their homework. No wonder the store opens at 7:30 in the morning. It’s probably jammed with students who come to the Café for breakfast.

I feel nostalgic. Hunter College is my Alma Mater. I went there ages ago, at a time when it was an all girl college. I majored in journalism and music history, had a maintenance scholarship, and baby-sat in the evening to earn some pocket money.

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I decide to visit New York’s privately owned book stores in my neighborhood, with or without a café. I start with Kitchen Arts & Letters, which opened in May 1983 and continues to carry my book “Life of a Restaurant”. Now supervised by manager/partner Matt Sartwell, retired owner Nach Waxman and his wife Maron, have remained friends. Running into Nach the other day, he tells me that the store now features a Talks & Tastes program held at the 92nd Y and invites me to upcoming one: “Food and Daily Life in Italy, from Ancient Rome to Medieval Tuscany,” to be followed by “How to Eat a Peach” narrated by Diane Henry with Julia Moskin.

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Tucked inside the Payne Whitney mansion, flying the French flag, I discover Albertine. I must have passed the building a zillion times without having the slightest idea that this is a French & English bookstore, under the auspices of the French Embassy, free and the open to the public. When I visited the place for the first time, I was so taken with the interior; I didn’t bother to look at anything else. Named after Proust’s elusive heroine, Albertine features monthly reading and discussions many of them in English. Since I have difficulties walking up the marble staircases without a railing, my visits to Albertine are somewhat restricted. .

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Located in a landmark Carnegie Hill neighborhood, The Corner Bookstore has been a mecca for its book-hungry residents and the students of various private schools of the area over four decades.  A relatively small store, it knows its audience and features their  book selections, as well as special events, accordingly.

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Logos book store is literally around the corner from my home on York Ave; yet this is the first time I actually go inside. Truth be told, it’s Logos’ eclectic selections of greeting cards that draw me in. Harris Healy, president of the company, welcomes me. “Sit down and make yourself comfortable,” he says.  A number of  armchairs – showing considerable wear – are located throughout the store.  I notice a black cat sleeping in a corner.

Healy explains that the name Logos derives from “the word” in Greek and that the store originally paid particular emphasis on books of spiritual and religious nature. While   Logos continues to maintain its section of books of spiritual nature, it has expanded considerably and offers a wide variety books that include history, biography, fiction, nonfiction, science nature, mystery, and poetry.

Since this is a particularly family-oriented neighborhood, Logos concentrates on to books for children and features story-telling for preschool children every Monday at 11:00 AM. A book club, as well as a poetry group, meet once a month on different evenings. Each week the store announces its “Pick of the Week” of the current best sellers of Fiction and Non Fiction, Children + Young Adults, Religious Texts, and Poetry.

Mindful of serving the neighborhood, Logos frequently mounts an art show of artists who live nearby. Open seven days a week, frequently till 9:00 PM, it feels like party time for upper East Side book lovers.

“All’s Well That Ends Well” -Shakespeare. I rest my case.

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