Cafe Society a la Belmont: ZBA OKs Eatery at Center’s New Bookstore

Photo: Chris Abouzeit (standing) and Kathy Crowley, owners of the Belmont Bookstore, before the ZBA

The famed “lost generation” of American artists and writers living in Paris in the 1920s – Hemingway, Stein, Eliot, Fitzgerald, Pound and Gershwin – would leave their dark and cold apartments and head to the lively bistro/bars on the Left Bank such as Le Dôme Café and Café de la Rotonde, drop a few centime for a coffee or brandy and spend hours reading, writing and creating a cafe society that would transform American literature.

While Belmont residents Chris Abouzeit and his wife, Kathy Crowley, the owners of the Belmont Bookstore – set to open in the next few weeks in the former Macy’s department store on Leonard Street in Belmont Center – aren’t anticipating to have the same impact on the literary landscape as what occurred 90 years ago in France, they will provide customers with a bit of the ambiance of the La Rive Gauche after the Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously granted the pair a “fast food” licence to include a cafe in the store.

“We see this as a vibrant spot in the store,” said Abouzeit. 

The vote which took place early in April grants Abouzeit and Crowley the right to build a 1,000 sq.-ft. cafe in the 5,000 sq.-ft. store. The 17-seat eatery will serve “coffee shop” fare, none of which will be prepared at the location, said Abouzeit, who is an author and manager at the Porter Square Bookstore in Cambridge. 

The cafe will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. with one to two weekly deliveries taking place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Trash will be put in a dumpster located on the Alexander Avenue side of the location provided by the landlord, Locatelli Properties.

After the vote, Abouzeit t0ld the Belmontonian the store should be “quietly” opening in the middle-or-end of May a few weeks after its neighbor, Foodies Urban Market. 

“We are looking at Town Day (this year on Saturday, May 20) but I’d like to open tomorrow. Everyone is excited that we will open the doors soon,” he said.

Crowley said the store would have special events for kids in June – a “Find Waldo” type event in partnership with the store’s other retail neighbor, The Toy Shop of Belmont.

The store will also host a series of author events, including talks by Crystal King, the author of the new novel (a late April release), “Feast of Sorrow” and “The Salt House” author Lisa Duffy (out in June) while the owners hope to have Sebastian Junger and Tom Perrotta in the store during the summer. 

“We are planning more events as we speak,” said Crowley.

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  1. Tess Oxley says

    I hope others are as excited about this bookstore as we are! Local owners, local authors, local interests, a cafe – this bookstore will be a huge enhancement to Belmont Center, and a further, compelling reason to visit, shop, eat and linger. Everyone will benefit!

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