Every bookstore, no matter how old, has a story behind it.
Edgartown Books is no exception.
Last year, after what some thought could be the end of an iconic Island bookstore, Edgartown Books on Main street reopened for business under new ownership. And the denouement is still being written.
So what would you do if the opportunity arose to expand this recently revived and popular Edgartown business?
If you’re Susan Mercier, manager, you open a coffee bar and cafÃ© directly behind the bookstore, and you title it such, Behind the Bookstore, or btb.
This is a coffee bar and cafe with so many different choices, it’s like you’re at a coffee library. One option is coffee that is cold brewed, steeped for 16 to 18 hours, to enjoy alongside plenty of baked goods made fresh daily, like salted peanut butter cookies and bacon and date scones.
Mrs. Mercier says btb, which opened for business three months ago, was largely possible because of the people who run it: Rachel Fox, the baker and business manager, and Phill Kim, barista, coffee connoisseur and self-titled “director of ambiance.”
This past December, in a New York city restaurant, Jeffrey Sudikoff, who owns Edgartown Books with his wife, met with Ms. Fox and offered her the opportunity to manage and bake at what is now btb.
“And then in January I moved here,” Ms. Fox said of the Vineyard, where she’s currently living. “I’m from L.A. but I came here by way of Brooklyn. And I came here specifically for this project.”
On the day she arrived, a cold January morning, the first snowfall of the winter came down on Martha’s Vineyard. “And I instantly loved it here,” Ms. Fox said.
“It’s always been my dream to be baking next to a bookstore because I have a passion for reading,” said Ms. Fox, an avid reader of the classics. When she isn’t in the kitchen, “which is like never in the summer,” she especially enjoys reading Charles Dickens, “and, of course, Jane Austen.”
Mr. Kim, or “Coffee Phill” as Mrs. Mercier calls him, moved to the Vineyard from Los Angeles.
“Phill spearheaded and pioneered the whole coffee program,” said Ms. Fox. “He has this great attitude toward coffee and appreciating beans,” she added.
And she’s right. Mr. Kim is as enthusiastic about coffee as Mrs. Mercier is about books. Nothing makes him happier than spilling the beans on his beans.
“We use Intelligentsia Coffee,” Mr. Kim said, “a Chicago-based roaster that I used to work for about three years ago.”
Intelligentsia Coffee, according to their website, is unique in that the bean growers are exclusive to the company. “We take insights, practices and expertise in preparation and processing garnered from our work around the globe and apply them to each of our Direct Trade coffees to make them the absolute best they can be,” the site says.
It is what Mr. Kim describes as high quality coffee, part of the third wave coffee movement. “It’s putting coffee in the artisanal category, like wine,” he said.
“The first wave was Folgers, it started back in the day and coffee was more of a commodity. The second wave was Starbucks, and what they’ve done, which is great, is taught America how to drink coffee. And then there’s us, part of the third wave, the small town coffee shop.”
Inside btb, bags of Intelligentsia beans are displayed in between books on a shelf near the bakery case.
“Farmers do reap the benefits of their product. Like, I’ve actually met the guy whose name is on a bag,” said Mr. Kim. “We go through a lot of beans, all different blends,” added Mr. Kim, “and I absolutely have a passion for this.”
Mr. Kim developed a taste for coffee early, when he was eight years old. It was while eating breakfast in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“It was a cafe con leche,” he recalled. “I dipped a buttered French roll into the coffee. So good.”
Born in Sao Paulo, Mr. Kim moved to California at the age of nine. Now 26, he is, so far, enjoying the Vineyard. “I like the community here,” he said.
So we have to ask, does he ever dip Ms. Fox’s baked goods in btb coffee?
“Absolutely,” he said, “I’ve dipped Rachel’s maple glazed coffee cake into a cappuccino before and it was amazing.”
“It’s been a gift to have them,” Mrs. Mercier said of Mr. Kim and Ms. Fox. They fit seamlessly into the Island, she said.
“Well there’s a lot of good people here to meet,” Ms. Fox said.
And so it seems the story of Edgartown Books is nearly finished.
Mrs. Mercier said btb has plans to continue takeout coffee and pastry service for people to enjoy outdoors on the patio for the rest of the summer, but after that, there are bigger plans to undergo another remodeling project, which would include indoor seating, and hopefully be open year-round with space to enjoy a cup of coffee and a good book, both inside and out.