Books, Dogs, and Champagne Cocktails at Battery Park Book Exchange
Asheville’s Battery Park Book Exchange brings together three things that many people find irresistible: books, dogs, and champagne. Nestled in one corner of the historic Grove Arcade, this unconventional used bookstore opened seven years ago, but its old-school vibe suggests that it has been there forever.
With its leather club chairs, well-worn rugs, and high ceilings, the Book Exchange resembles a nineteenth-century gentleman’s library – with a bar. On the walls hang antique landscapes, some of which are for sale. Glass display cases hold valuable editions bound in faded leather. A moose mount watches over the main room. And on the bar rests a small, red embossed notebook that reads, “Where are you from? What brings you here?” Inside are the adoring testimonies of boozy bibliophiles.
Owner Thomas Wright modeled the Book Exchange on “the quintessential English pub” — a comfortable living-room space where people can meet, drink, chat, and read. Because the walls of books absorb sound, the bookstore always feels peaceful and quiet, even when it’s filled with people.
It's not only permitted — it's encouraged to bring your pup into the Battery Park Book Exchange. Photo via Battery Park Book Exchange.
The Book Exchange’s dog-friendly policy is popular among locals and tourists alike, and their red cocktail napkins and glassware feature mascot Corky, an 85-pound Bouvier des Flandres owned by general manager Emily Krainik. Corky likes to wander around while visitors sip their champagne and browse.
“It’s just a really welcoming and comfortable atmosphere,” said Krainik. “We’ve tried to create an atmosphere that would be particularly welcoming to women – where women could come and feel safe and come to meet. We get a lot of writers’ groups and a lot of women’s book clubs, and we have a knitting circle that comes in.”
The Book Exchange’s sparkling wines and champagnes set the tone for the space and offer an alternative to Asheville’s craft beer scene. Wright wanted to sell books the old-fashioned way – not online – so his solution was to incorporate other appealing offerings: light food and sparkling wines and champagnes. Book sales account for 30% of the store’s revenue.
“If I could sell enough books, the wine would be given to all customers at no charge,” he said.
In addition to the menu’s champagnes and wines (both sparkling and still), customers may also opt for a classic Champagne cocktail, a Bellini, or a Bloom ‘n Bubbles, a lovely concoction that resembles a kir and involves a sci-fi-esque candied hibiscus bloom (all $7-9).
The bar is also inspired by the books that surround it. Four months ago, the Book Exchange inaugurated six “Literary Champagne Cocktails” that take their names from classic works of literature: Fahrenheit 451, The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, The Secret Garden, Death in the Afternoon, and Jane Eyre ($8-10). Each cocktail has a playful write-up: The Scarlet Letter “does not require you to adorn your clothing with the letter ‘A’ or succumb to public ridicule to sip on this delicious, scarlet beverage,” and The Secret Garden incorporates “elderflower and hibiscus plucked from the grounds of Misselthwaite Manor.” Death in the Afternoon asks you to “Take a seat out on the patio and picture yourself sitting at Les Deux Magots in Paris.”
The literary Champagne cocktails were designed by Logan Hatchett, who has been with the Book Exchange for five years and previously worked at Sovereign Remedies, a locally-owned craft cocktail bar. He was recently awarded his first level sommelier and wine expertise from the Court of Master Sommeliers.
His bookish inventions – all made with Simonet from Alsace – have proven popular.
“The Great Gatsby is one of the most popular,” he said. A twist on a classic Champagne cocktail, this incarnation of 1920s decadence opts for a locally made orange bitters called Boss Lady Bitters instead of Angostura. Death in the Afternoon is inspired by absinthe, but as the bar can’t serve liquor, Hatchett uses an anise extract and then drops a raw star anise into the cocktail. The frothy Jane Eyre incorporates pomegranate juice, lemon, sugar and egg white.
Sometimes, customers seek out the books behind the literary champagne cocktails.
“There was a mother and daughter that came in – they were visiting from out of town – and they ordered Secret Gardens,” Hatchett said. “The mom was talking about how it was her favorite novel and the daughter was like, ‘How funny. I’ve never actually read the novel before,’ so they actually found an old copy and bought it.”