Cookbook store profile – Bonnie Slotnick CookbooksMarch 21, 2015 by Jane
This is the latest installment of the EYB feature highlighting independent cookbook stores. We hope you will discover (or get reacquainted with) a store near your home – or plan a new target destination when you travel. We keep an ongoing list of cookbook stores but we’d love to learn about more – especially those treasured by our members. So please share the names of independent cookbook stores that you know, love, admire, or are just plain crazy about. Add a comment to this posting, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the name, address, and owner (if you know it). We’ll do the rest.
This edition takes us to New York. You may recall reading about the move that NYC cookbook store Bonnie Slotnick’s Cookbooks recently had to make. Now that the move is done and Bonnie is settled in to her new space at 28 East Second Street, we asked her about her new store.
How long has Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks been in business and what are your areas of expertise?
I’ve had my own shop for 17 years and prior to that I was a book scout, finding out-of-print (o.p.) cookbooks for another store and running its o.p. department. Twentieth-century cookbooks and earlier, etiquette and housekeeping books, and culinary ephemera are, you could say, my areas of expertise.
You have recently moved the store from Greenwich Village to East 2nd Street. What prompted the move?
My landlord refused to renew my lease. Not to be confused with a rent increase–that wasn’t even mentioned.
How is the new store different to the old?
It’s 3 times the size of the old one, with access to a rear garden, and best of all, the owners of the building are absolute angels and offered me a 10-year lease. They help me in any way they can. We’re friends. It’s the opposite of my situation at the old place.
How many books are in the store and what treasures might we find right now?
I’m guessing between 4,000 and 5,000, if you count the boxes and boxes of ephemera (mostly advertising booklets from food companies). My stock is still down from before my move, but I’ve just begun restocking with several purchases. You can always find (if I may call them by their first names) Julia, James, Mary Frances, Marcella, Elizabeth, etc., here, but there are also items like Soul Food Cookery by Inez Yeargan Kaiser, published in Kansas City, MO in 1968; a facsimile of The Modern Cook (1846) by Charles Elmé Francatelli, who was Queen Victoria’s chef; and La Buena Mesa by Olga Budge DeEdwards (fourth edition, 1950 printing), which judging by its size must be one of the definitive Chilean cookbooks.
In the last year there have been cookbook store closures (The Cookbook Store in Toronto and Salt and Pepper Books in Maryland) but the good news is that a store is soon opening in Chicago (Read It and Eat). What do you think keeps customers coming back to specialized cookbook stores such as yours?
I think people are finally realizing that buying cookbooks online can be pretty boring, and going to a real store and looking at all sorts of books (not zeroing in on a specific title) is much more fun and rewarding. And of course the people you meet in a bookstore add to the experience.
What are the oldest, rarest and most expensive cookbooks you have ever sold?
First editions of Joy of Cooking, from 1931, and an early American edition of Hannah Glasse’s Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, published in Alexandria, Virginia in 1812.
Where do you find the books that you sell?
I buy most of them from private individuals who have inherited a cookbook library or are downsizing their homes or winnowing their collection. I also have pickers who find books in all sorts of places (including the street) and bring me their finds. You wouldn’t believe what people throw in the trash around here!
Do you get chefs coming to your store? What older books are they on the hunt for?
Yes. Many of them are looking for older editions of Escoffier or Larousse Gastronomique, or Fernand Point’s Ma Gastronomie, or the series published by Robert Laffont of cookbooks by the great French chefs of the late twentieth century.
Do you cook from the cookbooks yourself? If so, which are your favorites?
Not very much, really! But Elizabeth Alston’s Muffins is one that I do use.
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