October Shop of the Month
In the year since it opened, bookshop Barbóék in Leuven, Belgium, has amassed a following of devoted customers in search of good books and great coffee. We spoke with the owner to find out more about our current Shop of the Month.
When did all start ?
Our store opened on June 7, 2015, which was a splendid Sunday in the spring.
Why did you decide to open a store?
I was working as an editor for a publisher when my favourite bookshop in Leuven, Belgium, closed its doors. It was a tiny little shop where they sold books and served coffee. My husband and I decided to start a new bookshop—a larger one—where people could buy books and also enjoy a coffee. We made our decision in the beginning of May, and by June, Barbóék was already open.
How would you describe the neighborhood in which the store is located?
Barbóék is situated in a corner of Leuven that used to be a bit forgotten and out of the was. However, the neighborhood is now the place to be with lots of trendy shops as well as established quality stores. It’s an old street that is free of traffic. You’ll immediately know where we are when you notice our coffee terrace.
In terms of other books and merchandise, what do you offer your customers?
We offer our clients all sorts of books: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, art, sports, lifestyle. Most of our books are in Dutch, but we also offer a few in Italian, French, and English. Finally, we serve coffee, tea, soft drinks, and homemade cake.
What are your favorite Gestalten books?
What are your customers’ favorite Gestalten books?
Coincidentally, our clients have the same taste as we do!
What kinds of people shop there? Who might be seen visiting the store?
All kinds of people, from babies in their mothers’ arms to lovely grannies, as well as students, couples, and groups of friends. Just come and see: everybody meet with everybody else here.
Do you do anything at your store besides sell books? Do you, for example, have any events or exhibitions there?
Almost every week, we have late-night literature events such as talks about books, slow reading-events wherein people read together in silence, shut-up-and-write events with people writing together for an hour and a half, and book presentations …
Is there anything else about the store that you'd like us to mention?
Barbóék is a great place to be—it’s our favorite spot in town. Try our patio with the olive tree in the summer; in winter, enjoy your coffee on a cozy sofa.
Images © Hannah van Herk