Two New England specialty stores are attempting to satisfy foodies’ hunger for information on food and wine. The first, Rabelais in Portland, Maine, opened in April, while Bostonites now have access to the recently opened Stir.
Rabelais was established by rare book dealer Don Lindgren and his photo-editor-turned-pastry-chef-wife, Samantha Hoyt-Lindgren. The 1,500-sq.-ft. store stocks 1,200 new titles, 1,400 used and out-of-print books and 300 rare books, all about food, wine and cooking, in a dozen languages, with some titles dating as far back as the 18th century.
“I see this shop as a different model for an independent,” says Lindgren, who has a background in bookselling, having worked at Powell’s in Chicago and The Strand in New York City. “Having a specialty allows us to have a deeper selection than a Barnes & Noble. The mix of new, out-of-print and rare lets us take the inventory even deeper, so we can have 18 books by M.F.K. Fisher rather than three.” In addition, he’s found that by offering rare books that sell for $200 and up, customers are more willing to pay full price for new titles. New books, in turn, encourage the sale of used books, which are all in good condition and wrapped in Mylar.
The Lindgrens’ connections to Portland’s food community and the Slow Food movement have helped the store become established in just a few months. The store’s bestseller list reflects a slightly different customer-base than that of the Food Network. Its top two sellers are Hervé This’s Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor (Columbia Univ. Press) and Martin Picard’s self-published Au Pied de Cochon: The Album (which received a 2006 IACP Award for Cookbook Design and includes a two-hour DVD).
At Stir, in Boston’s South End, customers can peruse the store’s 200 titles on cooking, wine, food science and culinary history. The shop is the latest enterprise of James Beard Award—winning chef Barbara Lynch and the No.9 Group (which has three restaurants, a catering company and a produce store). Stir will also hold classes in its demonstration kitchen, which is also available for rent. Lynch will conduct the first class on August 6 on “Food, Wine and Books.”