By Judy Garrison
Despite the blinking coffee cup and bright sign announcing the Blue B Café at Steinway Books at 114 Main Street, Delhi, there are still some who haven’t yet noticed its existence. So we are here to tell you that the café, and bookstore with 18,000 volumes, is open 7 days a week, from 10-5 (closing earlier on Sundays). And the cheerful and sparkling café, located in the front, has turned a simple menu into an advantage. “Keep it simple but good” could be the motto of Stephanie Carter, the engaging and gracious owner whose relaxed manner belies the hard work she has put into developing both of these interlocking businesses. Everything offered is fresh and of premium quality.
It is the kind of place where you can have a long relaxed lunch with a friend, say a fresh-made chicken salad with tomato on a croissant accompanied by a cup of Tay Tea. Or perhaps a cappuccino—made on their vintage Italian machine–to be enjoyed solo, while you read the paper. It’s also for those who might want to grab a fresh-baked pastry and coffee with flavored syrup to go. You are encouraged to compose your own grilled panini from the many choices of cheeses, maybe with turkey, a specialty mustard and roasted red pepper.
When a group of library trustees and other friends from Andes wanted to celebrate a birthday recently, they accommodated 12 of us beautifully. The soup of the day was a fantastic lobster bisque, and the ambiance suited us perfectly.
Stephanie’s concept of offering people another reason to come and enjoy the book store has provided a truly synergistic environment: books plus food equals satisfaction and exploration. For those who haven’t heard the story, Stephanie acquired a large number of books from the huge collection owned and donated by her father-in-law who lives in the old Steinway Mansion in Astoria, Queens. Hence the name. She is constantly adding to the collection, including estate sales she finds to purchase while on her route as a rep for Tibo, a French design company. Her route enables her to shop over a wide range, from Connecticut to New Jersey to the Hamptons. For those book lovers who suspect shelf space was lost in the re-configuration to accommodate the café, you’re wrong! She was able to add two large bookcases and a bargain book room in the back to boot. She and her trained staff ship books every day, as they sell on Alibris, Amazon, and Abe Books. The inventory search engine developed for their on-line sales also allows staff to identify from a quick search whether a particular book is on hand. Those choosing to enjoy a leisurely browse on their own will find the shelves to be well labeled and organized.
Stephanie explained that the new books she acquires, many of regional interest, are always offered at reduced prices, and she prices all books at the low end of what is available on line. If you’re wondering about the “B”, it may stand for books, or for the bees which Stephanie is raising, and whose honey she intends to sell here when the time is right. She even captured a swarm on Main Street in her bee suit, with help from Harold Eustis of Paint & Paper, which fit her goal of adding a wild colony to her other two colonies. A master bee-keeping course at Cornell is next for her. So glad that Steinway Books and the Blue B Café are here in nearby Delhi.~