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.

BREAKING: Bookstore Joins Foodies In Former Macy’s Site in Belmont Center

Photo: A rendering that is one the Belmont Books website.

It’s official: Belmont Center will be home to a new bookstore early next year.

According to the husband and wife business team of Chris Abouzeid and Kathy Crowley (“Your friendly neighborhood booksellers”) the couple has signed a lease with owner Locatelli Properties for a reported 4,000 sq.-ft. portion of the renovated building that once housed first Filene’s and then Macy’s for more than 70 years.

The new venture will join Foodies Urban Market in the building. The market is expected to open before Thanksgiving.

The name of their store: Belmont Books. While an official opening day has not been announced, the Cedar Road residents said: “[o]ur target date for opening is March 2017.”

It marks the return of a bookseller to Belmont Center after nearly seven years when Charlesbank Bookshop, part of the B. Dalton division of Barnes & Noble, shut its doors in December 2009.

The bookstore will occupy two floors along Leonard Street, according to a press release issued on Aug. 16, “in that quaint section with the white façade and lovely molding that just screams ‘Put an awesome store in here!'” said the release.

“So when you’re looking at the building, those big, wide windows up above? Those are ours. Can you say ‘reading room with a view?'”

As for the owners, Abouzeit is an author – he wrote the young adult fantasy novel “Anatopsis” – and bookseller at Porter Square Books in Cambridge and Crowley is a primary care physician at Boston Medical Center in Boston’s South End and an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University’s medical school. It is reported that she is writing a mystery novel. 

The press release puts to a close the not-so-secret attempts by the couple to bring a bookstore to Belmont Center. Earlier this year the proprietors put online a website and a Twitter account under the “Belmont Books” moniker. Periodically, an update would be issued on “ongoing negotiations” with Locatelli but not much else.

On June 20, under the headline “Bookstore coming to Belmont, Mass. in 2017”, Publishers Weekly wrote about the couple, their plans and what to expect at the new store. 

Publishers Weekly said the store “will have a strong children’s, science fiction and fantasy, and mystery sections. The store will also carry bestsellers, classics, and cookbooks, among other book sections, along with cards, games, and gifts. Also, it will have a coffee shop that serves pastries and lunch.”