Five-story bookstore opens in Beacon Hill


Rachel Hackam

Beacon Hill Bookstore on Charles Street.

By Rachel Hackam, Correspondent

In a five-story townhouse on Charles Street, customers can peruse the newly-opened Beacon Hill Books and Cafe. The shop’s cool gray walls, warm white lights, and soft background music create a bibliophile’s ideal atmosphere. A spiral staircase runs through the building as each unique floor peels off its trail. Blue-and-white striped carpet covers the floors, meeting the slate bookshelves filled with colorful covers.

The birth of this cozy bookstore and cafe came when owner Melissa Fetter returned to Beacon Hill in 2019 after 30 years away. She was surprised to find an absence of bookstores on the Hill. When an old neglected building became available on Charles Street, Fetter didn’t hesitate to purchase it in hopes of creating the perfect bookstore. 

Although purchased in 2019, the building wasn’t ready for customers until October 2022 due to strict renovation regulations from the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission and the city of Boston. 

When renovating, Fetter wanted to preserve the original character of the building and enhance the “good bones” of the old townhouse. The layout of the interior remains consistent with the 1800s style, as sitting rooms branch off from the staircase. An elevator was installed to increase accessibility.

“I really wanted to maintain what was appropriate from the historical aspects of the building, but I also wanted to give it a more contemporary feel,” Fetter said in an interview with The Beacon. 

Beacon Hill Books and Cafe has five floors connected by a spiral staircase. On each floor, cozy reading nooks and specialized rooms branch off, allowing customers ample space to wander through the store. Bookshelves line the perimeter of each room, with tables in the center showcasing popular reads and new releases.

“Bookstores are about the quality of the books on the shelves, but the space needs to be welcoming,” Fetter said. “We want people to make the choice to come in and not do what is convenient and click ‘add to cart.’” 

Located on Charles Street, Beacon Hill Books and Cafe is only a short walk from Emerson’s campus. Sophomore creative writing student Daphne Bryant took advantage of the fall weather and visited the shop. 

Photo: Rachel Hackam

“Upon entering, I was immediately intrigued,” Byrant said. “It felt like I entered a wonderland, and as I kept climbing the stairs, I found more and more magical nooks and crannies to explore.” 

The garden level of the store houses the cafe and an outdoor seating area. Space heaters and potted plants surround the tables and chairs. 

The street-level entrance brings entering customers to the second floor. The shelves are lined with non-fiction books as well as staff picks. The store’s mascot, Paige the squirrel, also lives on this floor in her little cottage-style white house on the wall across from the register. 

Paige has her own bed, table, and fireplace that is sized perfectly for her. On the back wall is a replica of the “Rembrandt” painting stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, but Paige doesn’t have any intel on the heist.

Paige spends her days in the Public Gardens, sharing stories with the other squirrels. At night, she reads the children’s books, placing an acorn on her favorites for them to be featured at the next storybook hour. 

Up the spiral staircase to floor three is the store’s fiction collection. In one of the largest sections on the floor, the fiction books are divided into sub-genres, such as romance and mystery. Also on this floor is a small room with deep red walls dedicated to aesthetics such as design, gardening, and architecture. Images are carved into the bookcases, including engravings of pens, globes, and ink pots. 

Another side room houses the “around the world” section, filled with books that would make great reads while in different parts of the world. 

The fourth floor is the children’s section. Lined with colorful books and playful child-sized furniture, the children’s room resembles the nursery from “Mary Poppins.” Above the shelves, a train encircles the room, moving in and out of the wall as if passing through a tunnel. The fifth and final floor houses the back office, where writing workshops will soon be held. 

Each floor has its own personality, drawing visitors into a world different from the one above and below. Sophomore theater and performance student Riley MacMoyle found comfort in the children’s section.

“I felt like my inner child was getting to play with the train and the little red door,” MacMoyle said. 

Although important, the decor is only one part of the bookstore. Upon opening, the owners had the opportunity to curate an entire selection of books. The staff at Beacon Hill Books and Cafe began with a recommended list provided by the distributor. Fetter and her team examined each title, crossing off and adding books to the collection as they went.

“We were building a business while also guessing our client demographics,” Fetter said. “As we grow, our customers will help inform our decisions, especially surrounding inventory.” 

General Operations Manager Irene MacDonald played a large role in curating the collection.  MacDonald interned for several publishers when attending law school in the Boston area. Through these experiences, she discovered the United-Kingdom-based publishing company Persephone Books. 

Persephone Books primarily reprints books written by women. MacDonald and Fetter are fans of the company and made it a goal to include them in Beacon Hill Books’ collection.

“Our goal has always been to have the book you’re looking for and to also have the book you didn’t know you were looking for,” MacDonald said. “We want to help you find the next book you will fall in love with.” 

After a long process, Beacon Hill Books opened at the beginning of October, ready to greet literature lovers of all ages. 

“Beacon Hill Books is here to serve all of Boston and to share a love of reading with everyone,” Fetter said.