Whenever I receive the bi-monthly newsletter from Weller Book Works in Salt Lake City, UT, I’m always impressed with their event schedule, especially with their non-traditional events. I recently spoke with one of the owners, Catherine Weller, after they launched their newest event, Breakfast Club.
“Partnering with a coffee shop to stimulate earlier morning traffic is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while,” says Weller. When Weller Book Works moved to historic Trolley Square, they were able to partner with a local coffee ship, Coffee Connection, for the Breakfast Club location. “It’s really informal, just a bunch of people talking about books,” she says. “Maybe they can’t commit to being in a book club, or make time for formal discussions. I get to hear about what they like and tell them what I like. I get to give away publisher stuff and make this a valuable thing for people who can come for an hour.”
Our conversation began with talking about the Breakfast Club. But then it evolved into a discussion about several other non-traditional events hosted by the store. One of those is Lit Knit. “We’ve been doing that for 10 years or so,” Weller explained. “We had a bookseller who knitted and wanted to have a knitting club. We agreed, because it was at a time we were having a difficult time generating foot traffic at our old location on Main Street. It’s never been huge, but it’s had a core of loyal members over the years. Besides, it’s a lot of fun, and sometimes we talk about books!”
The store also hosts story time, poetry slams, and theatre readings. Yes, theatre readings. “When members of our local theatre company are working on a play, but they’re not ready to move around the stage yet, they’ll perform a play reading here.” The readings will typically pull in 40-60 people, and attendees have an opportunity to buy tickets to the final production at a discount.
One event they host, Collector Book Salon, was the idea of Catherine’s husband Tony Weller, the other store owner. “He wanted to reach out to collectors in the community in a different kind of way,” she explains. “The salon offers an opportunity to talk about bookish passions in a slightly fancier environment. It’s targeted to collectors in community, or those interested in collecting. The idea is to get people together to talk with one another. They get to show off what they do and talk about what they collect.” A recent guest at the salon was The World’s Strongest Librarian author Josh Hanagarne, who talked about collectors and obsessions. (The top image from the Collectors’ Book Salon features Hanagarne and owner Tony Weller holding a frying pan that Josh had rolled up with his bare hands at a previous event at the store.)
The event is open to the public and lasts about 1.5 hours. It is catered and they offer treats and wine. “We invite people to dress a little bit better, well, better is a qualitative term. More festive, perhaps.” Tony, she explains, likes to wear a purple suit. “Let’s just say we invite people to explore the fanciful side of themselves.”