The buzz of excitement was palpable as dozens of community members eagerly waited to enter The Book Jewel at its grand opening on Saturday, August 29 in conjunction with Independent Bookstore Day. After years of pouring her heart and soul into creating a space that the whole community can treasure, not even a mask could hide owner Karen Dial’s smile.
“It’s a dream come true and it’s even more incredible than I could have ever imagined, and I mean that,” said Dial, who described the week leading up the store’s opening as one of the most amazing of her life. “The space turned out so beautiful.”
Opening an independent bookstore in Westchester has been a lifelong dream of Dial’s and a major priority since moving back to her hometown 16 years ago to serve as president of her family’s company, Drollinger Properties. Though many small businesses have been forced to close their doors and doom and gloom seem to be around every corner, the opening could not come at a better time, lifting people’s spirits and providing a space for everyone, young and old, to take their minds off of what is happening in the world today, said Dial.
“During these unusually trying times, everyone’s feeling a little off and some people are feeling really fearful. This store offers solace and a peaceful place for people to mull around and browse,” she said. “There is a lot of negativity in the world right now, and we all need peaceful spaces to spend our time.”
The store’s eclectic shelves are filled with more than 11,000 new and gently used books, as well as thoughtful gifts, cards and items produced by local boutique companies. If you don’t see the book you’re looking for, the staff is happy to order it for you and let you know when it arrives a few days later, said Dial.
For those not comfortable entering into the store, which is stocked with hand sanitizer on nearly every shelf and requires a mask to visit, curbside pickup is available. Looking for gently used “rare and wonderful” titles, the store will consider books for purchase and store credit.
“Westchester is an incredibly diverse and creative community, and we want the bookstore to be a reflection of that,” said store manager Sean Moor. “Throughout the store, in every section, we gave a lot of thought to make sure that all
voices in our community were represented, whether it’s in literature or cooking or children’s books. We really want the store to be a mosaic. You’ll find lots of choices here that you won’t find in any other bookstore. Our selection is carefully curated, incredibly diverse and deep. There are books here that will move you. We also have a lot of books that will change conversations.”
Echoes Dial, “A really big theme of mine is inclusivity. I want everyone to feel welcome in this bookstore. We want it to feel like home and that people belong here. This is really something special for our community and something that was missing.”
Dial named the store after her mother, Jewel, who loved to read. She says her mother would be thrilled if she saw the store.
“I wanted to create an environment that really inspired people to fall in love with reading,” said Dial. “My mother inspired me to develop a love of books when I was young, and I want to pay that forward by creating a place that makes reading fun. Our stellar literary staff will be on hand to provide individualized attention, a personalized collection of books and an intimate knowledge of the books and items we sell.”
The bookstore’s opening is just the first part of the vision for The Book Jewel. A cafe, Tomat, is scheduled to open in 2021 and will be run by Dial’s daughter, Natalie, and her partner, Harry Posner. The two share a passion for food and have backgrounds in health. Menu items like house-made pastries, breads, ferments, local beer and wine, as well as an excellent selection of coffee are planned. The Book Jewel will also eventually feature a rooftop deck and an event space with a demonstration kitchen.
Once gatherings are allowed again, expect book signings, cooking demos, book club meetings and special events, said Moor. In the meantime, community members can sign up for the Mandala Book Club and participate in conversations about the book of the month over Zoom. The selection for September is “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson, which can be purchased at the store.
“We see The Book Jewel as a gift to the community, and we look forward to being a place of connection and a place of togetherness,” said Moor. “People unite through books, ideas, art, music and the written word. It’s the sort of things that make a community pull together, and bookstores play a special role in that.”
The Book Jewel is located at 6259 W. 87th St. in Westchester and is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Visit thebookjewel.com to sign up for their newsletter and join the book club.
Posted September 2020.