Independent Bookstore Still In Business Somehow
Stop the presses! Take out your earbuds! Mute that zoom meeting you are pretending to be in! Big news: an independent bookstore is still in business two years later. Yes, shocking as it is, on March 5th & 6th, Luddites Books & Wine will celebrate its 2nd Anniversary.
Co-owner Richard Bolte found himself flabbergasted when asked what Luddites had planned for its third year in business. “Well, obviously I never expected to be open this long in the first place,” said the increasingly distraught bookstore owner. “In the old days, you could open a bookstore, quickly lose copious amounts of money while your customers went to massive book chains or giant e-retailers, and you’d last, you know, seven months—eight months tops,” he said wistfully. “Nowadays, it’s like everyone under 40 is walking around saying how they are proud to support small stores and how they would rather browse book collections in store than online. And they just keep coming in and buying more books!” He later commented that when they first came up with the idea, a failing bookstore seemed like a surefire way to avoid paying taxes for a few years. “But instead I have to figure out ways to get rid of profit. Profit on selling books! In 2022! Can you believe that? It’s ridiculous.”
The shop, known in Antwerp for its quality selection of English books and for its wine bar upstairs, also gives away coupons with the purchase of books that are good for half off a glass of wine. “Now, from the beginning we worried that the wine bar part of the business might be profitable—if you aren’t careful it is very easy to make money off of wine—so that’s why from the start we gave away those coupons. My thinking was that selling good wine cheaply would definitely put us in the red. Instead, now some people come here just for the wine. It’s like everything I do backfires.”
Jorien Caers, the other co-owner, is equally shocked by the surprise success. “I originally came up with the idea of pouring all my money into a bookstore just so that my family would stop asking me when I was going to move back to my hometown and buy a house,” said the 31-year-old Belgian from De Kempen. “I thought it was a bulletproof way to get out of those questions for a few years. Instead, they’ve been sending me more local property listings than ever before.” It had started out so well for her, “About a month after we opened the pandemic hit, and I thought, ‘Bingo! This money pit is well on its way to being bottomless.’ Instead, people started reading more books than ever before.”
Richard remembers the first lockdown fondly, when the business was shuttered and he biked around Antwerp to hand deliver books to grateful customers. “At that point, running a bookstore was exactly as I dreamed it would be: no customers in the store, and with me having to physically bike somewhere if I wanted to sell a book. It was glorious.” Now, two years on, the store will throw a party to reminisce about those early days.
Luddites is a safe haven for people who want to evade the digital world, in pursuit of quietude or Bacchic bliss. Housed in a historic building in the center of Antwerp, Luddites offers the largest selection of English books in the city, as well as a curated selection of Dutch books. Hidden just up the stairs is a wine bar where customers can try orange wines, sparkling German wines, or whatever else they’ve decided to rotate on to the menu that month. With typewriter-written book recommendations and wooden bookcases with real ladders, Luddites is the place to experience the past in a new guise. On March 5th & 6th, Luddites will celebrate their two-year anniversary, with special discounts, give-aways, and—of course—wine.
Luddites Books & Wine
Open from Wednesday to Sunday, from 11u to 20u.