Bookmans, the giant "Entertainment Exchange" store where people go to sell their CDs, books and video games when they're out of beer money, has opened a fancy in-store cafe, Arizona State University's student newspaper reports. Personally, I've felt depressed every time I go into a place like that -- it's sorta like a slightly less-obviously sketchy pawn shop -- and certainly would have no interest in lingering to eat a Danish while there. A nice frosty glass bottle of malt liquor? Maybe. But definitely not any sort of dessert. Maybe that's just me.
Is this a good idea? Possibly yes, actually. I have a few theories why.
Maybe it's a sign of these trouble times that a vaguely-grubby Mesa store is now so mainstream that people want "pastries, sandwiches, and espresso-based drinks" there. Maybe all these fancy bookstores in the mall have just conditioned people, like Pavlov's pooches, to start craving an over-priced Americano when they're browsing shelves of dying media. Maybe Bookmans has just saved enough to take a huge gamble by doing a nice brisk business in an area that had low-rent even back when the Valley's economy was humming along.
So far, so good, though.
"I've never seen this kind of response," Serena Stout, the cafe's manager and a veteran of the coffee biz told the State Press. She claimed the cafe was a service to customers: "It's for them."
Well, it's probably also for the owners since coffee, which costs a few pennies a cup to make, is one of the most profitable commodities sold in this country, provided you can get people into your cafe long to give in to that irrational lust for very pricey caffeine. Foot traffic, of course, is something Bookmans has plenty of as people look to sell off their last CDs before the medium loses any and all market value. It's really sort of a natural fit.
Bookmans is planning to hold a grand reopening of the café sometime in March, the State Press reports, and the café is currently open during regular store hours, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. They eventually plan to open a walk-up window at 7 a.m.
Personally, I don't like Bookmans, greatly preferring Hoodlums or Zia. I talk enough about music every day to not seek out long conversations with record store clerks in my off hours, but I do sorta like the "hang out here and drink this" model. What would it take for a store like that to get a liquor license? What about encouraging people to BYOB in some bar-like listening room? Record stores -- even used ones -- need to find a way to make more money off the nearly value-less commodity they sell. Maybe caffeine and alcohol could do it.