Arcadia Books opened in Spring Green, Wisc., in May 2011 with owner James Bohnen visualizing the store not only as an independent bookstore, but also as a locally sourced kitchen and cafe. “There’s a large local produce movement in the area,” said store manager John Christensen, “and we cook with as many seasonal and local ingredients as we can.” That the store’s space melds cafe and bookstore helps make cookbooks big sellers at Arcadia. “Cookbooks are one of our strongest sections,” said Christensen, noting that the store currently has around 500 cookbooks in stock. Hungry customers can easily find recipe inspiration as they rest for a bite to eat, as most of the books in the store are placed where people sit and eat.
Christensen said he likes to carry a wide variety of cookbooks, but the store’s top-sellers tend to be farm-to-table, vegetarian, and gluten-free titles. “Folks are trying to cook in more varied ways, and these cookbooks are a big market for trying new techniques,” he said, adding that books that focus on simple ingredients and techniques also do well. “David Tanis’s One Good Dish [Artisan, 2013] is a book that customers like for the use of the high-quality ingredients they are able to find at the farmer’s market.”
Arcadia is doing so well with cookbooks, the store will begin publishing its own in June. From the Kitchen at Arcadia Books is a collection of recipes by Jacki Singleton, who runs the store’s cafe. Christensen said the idea for doing a cookbook came from the strong sales of Amy Thielen’s James Beard Award–winning The New Midwestern Table: 200 Heartland Recipes (Clarkson Potter), a regional cookbook that has sold extremely well for them since its release last fall. “Honestly, we thought we could do our own because we did so well with The Midwestern Table,” said Christensen.
The bookstore doesn’t let having a kitchen in the store go to waste, either: on June 5, they will host Paula Marcoux, author of Cooking With Fire (Storey, May), who will conduct a pizza-making demonstration for customers. And even when authors aren’t cooking in the kitchen, customers are. Arcadia has a successful ongoing program called “Cook the Book,” a cooking class that features a recipe from a cookbook in the store. “We limit the classes to eight people, and they sell out pretty much every time,” said Christensen. “We want to do more of them because there’s been a demand for them.” The cost of the class includes a copy of the book, so each participant goes home with a new cookbook.
The classes, events, and wide selection of titles all help to create a vibrant setting for selling cookbooks throughout the year. “Cookbooks do especially great at holiday time,’ said Christensen, “but they’re one of our sections that does the same percentage of sales year-round. It doesn’t fluctuate like other sections do.”