Photographs by Aaron M. Conway/OMS
Book lovers, meet your new happy place: Situated near the intersection of Fifth and Vine, The Booksellers on Fountain Square adds a new page to the downtown retail story. Thirty years after cofounding (and then parting ways with) Joseph-Beth Booksellers, owner Neil Van Uum is back in the business. With a growing residential population, the timing for a downtown storefront seemed right. “I wanted to be a part of all the excitement,” says Van Uum. “I think Cincinnati really has a great situation in terms of what’s happening with growth in housing and entertainment options.”
It helps, too, that this was a niche begging to be filled. These are people who know books, and being a locally owned, independent shop lets The Booksellers constantly tweak its selection and add new inventory to fit the needs and interests of its customers. Quick to greet visitors and offer recommendations, the employees’ expertise and energy is immediately apparent. “There’s a great diversity in books that are available these days, and I think people are looking for some means of making a connection, which doesn’t always exist in the superstore,” says Van Uum. “But in a store like this, where we have booksellers with years and years of experience, there’s a size and intimacy that allows people to connect.”
The shop has more than a well-curated selection of books. A café centers the space, offering a complete coffee and espresso bar paired with an extensive menu. Downtown workers, say hello to a new spot for breakfast and lunch. Beyond the morning meal, The Booksellers features flatbread pizzas, quiches, soups, sandwiches, salads, and desserts. Tasty local sources are fully represented, including Tom’s Pot Pies (for those unfamiliar, get yourself acquainted, stat—and come early, as these go fast on cold days). The hearty portions will not disappoint.
Gifts, cards, and kitsch round out The Booksellers’ selection, from Rookwood tile to quirky gadgets, jewelry, candles, and journals. (They’ve also installed a healthy, well-stocked magazine rack, which naturally warms our hearts.) Plenty of natural light makes it an inviting spot for that lunch meeting or some much-needed solo time with a cup of coffee and a new magazine or novel.
Van Uum calls it a “labor of love.” For the tired, the hungry, the book-starved? It’s just lovely.
505 Vine St., Downtown, (513) 258-2038, booksellersonfountainsquare.com
Originally published in the February 2014 issue.