Finding adventures in book … stores

By Heather Wanner
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer

ivybook

The original Ivy Bookshop located on Falls Road. Photo by Heather Wanner.

When Ann Berlin and her husband retired, they knew they needed a new adventure together.  As fortune would have it, the Ivy Bookshop was also looking for a new adventure.  With the shelves already stocked and the staff already in place, Ann and her husband, Ed, knew it was meant to be.

“I was the head of publishing for a textbook company and Ed was in banking and we were living in New York City,” Berlin said.  “We both retired and wanted to move to a smaller city, so we moved back to Baltimore where Ed is originally from.”

Even though they had both retired, Ann and Ed still had the desire to do more.

“We both have always been very passionate about books and love independent bookshops,” Berlin said.

The husband and wife team bought the then 11-year-old Ivy bookshop in 2012.  Around since 2001, the Ivy Bookshop was named by the previous owner, Darielle Linehan, after her favorite restaurant in London.

“It was an easy decision because the store was already set up for us,” Berlin said.  “Neither of us had ever done retail before, so the fact it was previously owned made it a smooth transition.  Not only was the shop stocked, but it also came along with loyal customers which was very motivating.”

Four years later the retail novices decided to expand their independent bookshop.  They partnered with Spike Gjerde, owner of Woodberry Kitchen, Artifact Coffee, and Parts & Labor, for an even newer adventure.

“We had been partnering with Spike for years on our monthly reading series we hold for up-and-coming authors,” Berlin said.  “Spike and Ed decided they wanted to do something together involving his business and ours.”

This partnership led the business owners to open Bird in Hand, their new bookstore café located in Charles Village.

“We are so excited about Bird in Hand and the young crowd it is bringing in,” Berlin said.  “To simply sum it up: it’s better books, better atmosphere, and better food.”

The Berlins task curators with choosing the over 27,000 books in stock at the Ivy Bookshop and the 3,000 at Bird in Hand.

“When you have such a small store but such a loyal following you have to specialize and tailor your selection to the customers,” Berlin said.  “We make our selection more interesting to our customers and give them what they want.”

Bird in Hand carries a selection of 3,000 books and provides an on-site curator for customers. Photo by Heather Wanner.

Bird in Hand carries a selection of 3,000 books and provides an on-site curator for customers. Photo by Heather Wanner.

Rachel Silver, a book curator at Bird in Hand, finds the new business to be unique.

“We are different because our front display tables are not only best sellers but some of our personal favorites as well,” Silver said.  “We tried to think of what books people will actually like in comparison to what they should like.”

The Berlins work hard to ensure their customers have a different experience and environment than in other bookstores.

The Berlin’s new store, Bird in Hand, mixes every book lover's dream: books and coffee. Photo by Heather Wanner.

The Berlin’s new store, Bird in Hand, mixes every book lover’s dream: books and coffee. Photo by Heather Wanner.

“Our shops are different from in-and-out bookstores and online bookstores because people want advice,” Berlin said.  “When you have an independent bookstore you have customers that want to talk about and discuss books rather than just buying and leaving.”

Emilee Bosely, a Baltimore resident, has been coming to Bird in Hand since it opened, “I choose to come here because of the home-like atmosphere you get. I feel welcome and can hang out for hours surrounded by people doing the same.”

While Berlin is content with their businesses, she is not ruling out the idea of expanding and opening more shops in the future.

“Hopefully in five years both shops are still booming,” Berlin said.   “I think that people are finding that independent businesses in general are having a recognizable resurface.”

The Berlins thoroughly enjoy the experience of owning the two bookshops and have found their new-found adventure to be very rewarding.

“The best part is being able to talk to our customers and see them talk to each other; they’re wonderful,” Berlin said.

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