Books & Brews brings its unique concept to Carmel City Center
Writer: Jon Shoulders
Photographer: Mark Bell
Alex Stanley, manager of the Carmel Books & Brews location at the City Center, says the community response since his grand opening this fall has exceeded his expectations.
“We opened about three weeks before the Christkindlmarkt and the new skating rink opened, and the business we got from that was pretty incredible,” he says. “So far, the first few months have been incredible – it’s been beyond anything I could have imagined. The community seems to love the concept.”
Granted, Books & Brews has a lot more going on than just books – it’s a craft beer taproom with a full food menu and features special events almost every day of the week, including an open mic night on Mondays, trivia on Tuesdays, bingo on Thursdays and live music on the weekends. Gently used books, all of which are donated and priced at $3, line the shelves of the establishment’s front room, which also features board games and free wifi.
Stanley says this diverse, family-friendly concept has been a hit since the first Books & Brews location opened near 96th Street in 2014, and eight additional locations including Zionsville, Brownsburg, Muncie and the Speedway are now in operation.
In-house beers feature literary monikers like Clifford, an Irish-style red ale, or Cream & Punishment, a cream ale. Stanley sources locally whenever possible for his food menu, including meats from Smoking Goose and Grilliant Foods. Kids eat free all day with a qualifying purchase on Tuesdays and Sundays.
“Our founder, Jason Wuerfel, is a big reader and was a literature major in college, and started home brewing as a hobby,” Stanley says. “The idea hit him one day that he could open up a brewery and bookstore all in one, and it just went from there.”
Back in December of 2016, Stanley and his wife Lori were regulars at the original Books & Brews location and noticed on social media that Wuerfel had decided to register for franchise status.
“I told Lori, almost as a joke, that I thought a franchise would be fun to do,” Stanley recalls. “I wasn’t very serious at the time, but then I couldn’t get it out of my head over the next few weeks. I emailed Jason and it took off from there.”
By springtime, the Stanleys had completed the necessary franchise paperwork and were hard at work finding the right location to open up shop. When a space at Carmel’s City Center became available, they jumped on it.
“We really try to do a little bit of everything, so everybody feels welcome and it’s a spot where anybody can hang out, whether it’s a book club or a business meeting or whatever,” says Stanley, adding that there are no televisions, which makes for a calm, quiet atmosphere particularly for daytime patrons.
Looking back on his first four months of business, Stanley has enjoyed not only the community support but also the partnerships he and Lori have forged along the way. Ten percent of their book sales go directly to the Carmel Library Foundation.
“We’re family-friendly and we welcome everybody,” Stanley says. “There are a lot of brewery and bar-type places that are 21 and up. I think this is the kind of thing Carmel was missing – it’s a different kind of concept and atmosphere than anywhere else in town.”
Books & Brews is located at 61 West City Center Drive in Carmel. Call 317-740-0350 or visit booksnbrews.com for additional information.