HYDE SQ.—Flames cracked in the fireplace as the aroma of hot cider mixed with soothing music. At a round table in front of the fire, two friends played Scrabble amid the comfortable ambience of rows of books.
Although it sounds more like a cozy home library, the site is actually JP’s Rhythm & Muse at 470 Centre St., which celebrated its 10th anniversary this month.
“What I wanted to do was to create a place where people can come to not only buy books and CDs, but also to socialize,” said David Doyle, who owns the store with his wife, Mari Perez-Alers.
He admitted the past 10 years have had some challenges, but he’s faced them all with determination and with faith in his vision.
In 1998, Doyle, then 34, was working as a physical therapist at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in JP, where he met his wife, also a therapist who is still practicing.
“But I was always more of a liberal arts person than science person,” he said, leaning against a line of bookshelves. “My brother [Scott] and I had talked about opening a business for a long time. We had a little savings, and the timing seemed right. The economy was strong, and the community was very receptive to the idea of a bookstore. So we did it.”
They rented and renovated the storefront next to Bella Luna in Hyde Square, opening that December. The store emphasized a wide variety of books and music in a casual atmosphere where customers could relax in comfortable chairs below the exposed wood beams that lined the high ceiling.
“Neither of us had any business training, so it was a steep learning curve and sometimes overwhelming the first few years,” Doyle said.
Then after five years the store had to move when the rent was raised. They found a storefront in a house just outside Hyde Square, which he purchased over a year ago. It was smaller but fit a new, leaner business strategy.
Acknowledging the sagging economy and the loss of many independent bookstores, Doyle said he still sees opportunities. “The big-box stores are having their own problems now. If the small businesses are nimble, can shift inventory and have community support, they can survive these hard times.
“Small businesses contribute a lot to the health of the community because the money stays in the neighborhood. Many people in JP understand that,” he said.
“The challenge is to tailor inventory to the community, which is not always easy because it changes all the time,” said Doyle, who now runs the business himself since his brother moved to Los Angles to pursue a career as a writer.
Doyle described his CD stock as a “balance between new releases and a collector’s inventory of classic rhythm and blues and rock material that doesn’t show up in regular stores.”
His book stock emphasizes literature and fiction. “Our forte is selections from small presses,” he said, noting the store can special-order any CD or book customers want.
Rhythm & Muse also sponsors an open book club that meets monthly, and has begun to carry vinyl records, which are growing in popularity. He is also “exploring the idea of offering some kind of food service” at the store.
Doyle’s blog, RhythmAndMuseBookstore.blogspot.com, will soon be complemented by a web site scheduled to be up in January or February.
Store hours are Monday through Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. For more information, call 524-6622.