Business

Books, Bagels, Beans and soon goodbyes

Leaving Books Bagels and Beans will be like leaving home for owner Judith Pertnoy, creator of one of Bainbridge’s more cozy nooks.

Pertnoy wants to sell her store and move back to the East Coast to be closer to family.

It’s not only Pertnoy who “lives” at the espresso bar bookstore; Books, Bagels and Beans has become a home away from home to a devoted coterie of daily customers.

“We encourage that, we like that,” Pertnoy said. “People come and they never leave.”

Pertnoy moved to Bainbridge in 1993, after a visit to friends here convinced her to settle on the island.

Since she had worked as an assistant manager of a bookstore in Miami, where she had lived for 21 years, it was natural to think in terms of books when she decided to open a business.

After working for a year at Bainbridge Bakers, she signed a lease for a 1,441-square-foot space in the shopping center of stores clustered around Safeway and Rite-Aid on High School Road.

“I came here intending to open just a used bookstore,” she said. “But this was the spot I wanted and it was too big for just a used bookstore. My landlord suggested that I open an espresso bar, so that’s what we did.”

The bagels and baked goods – once made off-site, now all made in the store – were a throwback to Pertnoy’s first job working for a bagel bakery in Chicago.

“My roots are in bagels,” she said. “Tell you the truth, I like ours better than the ones you can get in Chicago.”

On its face, the space Pertnoy leased in the shopping center was perhaps not the most promising venue for a non-chain coffee house and book outlet; what the area lacked in charm, it made up for in asphalt.

But Pertnoy – an outgoing woman who loves to make friends comfortable in her home – decided to make the new enterprise as home-like and welcoming as she could.

“I had an image in my mind of what I was going to do,” she said. “I wanted to make it very ‘lodge feeling,’ very warm.

“I love to entertain, I’m a good hostess in my personal life so I just brought all that warmth into this. It’s really important to me to have a family feel.”

Pertnoy makes a point of introducing customers to each other, and many of those friendships “took,” with the coffee-drinkers still assembling to chat.

The focus of the store has shifted, since the opening in 1994, from book and magazine sales to more coffee and merchandise.

Today, while she still makes most from selling espresso drinks, there are still books for sale, and purveyors of second-hand books earn a store credit toward more books.

Novelty items for sale, once just a seasonal offering at Christmas, are today a year-round feature.

The staff consists of six baristas and a cleaning crew. There are often young people training for a barista spot by helping stock shelves and other odd jobs.

“We’ve always had to have a fair amount of people because we’re open seven days a week,” she said, “and we’re here at 5:45 a.m. We officially open at 6:30 but it’s rare when we don’t start serving at 6 o’clock.”

Pertnoy is not in a rush to leave; she has given herself a year to sell Books, Bagels and Beans.

Prospective entrepeneurs can call (206) 937-3300 to learn more, or email mpeizer@nwlink.com. But finding just the right buyer is important to Pertnoy. The right person, she says, is one who wants to keep the store going.

“I’ve had people who wanted to sign a lease just for the location,” she said. “I turned them down.”

She’d rather wait, she says, to see her legacy – good coffee and conviviality – endure.

“I hope that if I sell the business, people will still think fondly of me,” she said, “and that the business will carry on.”

Community Events, April 2014

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