Owned and operated by the husband-and-wife team of Nat Esten, a touring musician, and Erin Neary, a former marketing executive, Book Club is an indie bookstore and wine bar on New York City’s Lower East Side. The store opened in November 2019. Not the best timing, but the pandemic has forced the booksellers—who met at a book club, hence the store’s name—to be creative. They have lived on the LES for 10 years, Esten said, and the store has been embraced by the neighborhood.

In the early days of the lockdown, customers shopped on the Book Club website and picked up their items at the store. (Esten and Neary also praised Bookshop.org). The booksellers then started delivering online purchases by bike to customers all over the city, raising the store’s profile beyond the LES.

Book Club offers about 4,000 titles in a cozy, loftlike storefront and a nifty backyard sit-and-read space set off by a colorful wall mural. The store has been able to keep going, but Esten said having safe indoor seating—limited indoor seating is coming to New York City in October—is key to its survival.

“We love bars and books,” Neary said.

Esten added, “Sitting and having a drink is pretty important to us. It’s not just about selling books, it’s about having a space where people can talk, read, have some wine, and sit and enjoy a book for a few hours.”