Inside Beacon Hill Books & Cafe, the Neighborhood’s Debut Bookstore

Can an old-school bookstore not just survive but thrive in the era of Amazon and e-readers? Beacon Hill Books & Café owner Melissa Fetter sure thinks so.

Photo by Mona Miri

Melissa Fetter doesn’t have a favorite book. Surprising for the owner of a new bookstore on Beacon Hill? Maybe. But, as she sees it, that only benefits the shop, which stocks page-turners for readers of all ages and interests. “I truly love reading across genres,” Fetter says. “One day I can be reading a very serious book on the economy, and the next day I’m reading some light summer romance. I’m not biased.”

It’s just one of many things Fetter hopes will help her shop, Beacon Hill Books & Café, stand out from the competition. Another biggie: The business, which debuted last month, is the neighborhood’s only bookstore. In fact, that’s what inspired Fetter to launch it in the first place. After returning in 2019 to Beacon Hill, where she and her husband lived in the mid-1980s, Fetter was shocked to discover there wasn’t a place for local bibliophiles on Charles Street. So she created her own. “I had this vision in my head of a bookstore…that felt very residential in many ways,” Fetter explains. “Not like a strip mall where you walk in, and there are four walls, bookcases, end of story. I wanted to curate a space that was really special.”

And, objectively, she has. Encompassing five floors of a 19th-century townhouse renovated by Pauli & Uribe Architects and Cathy Kincaid Interiors, Fetter’s bookshop is a novel departure from its local counterparts. Custom carvings by woodworker Laurent Robert dress up the painted shelves, each bearing gold-leaf signage that announces categories such as “On the Water”—devoted to surfing and sailing. Elsewhere, upholstered window seats and furniture, including pint-size pieces on the toy-train-equipped children’s floor, offer cozy perches for reading volumes on interior design and travel. The shop even boasts a garden-level café that, starting this month, will begin high-tea service. (Fetter plans to add breakfast, lunch, and dinner by January 2023.) “It’s a bookstore out of a storybook, almost. It has a lot of unexpected pleasures as you walk through the floors,” Fetter says. “We really want the experience to be compelling.”

Owner Melissa Fetter in her Beacon Hill shop. / Photo by Mona Miri

Red shelves offer a pop of color in the “Aesthetics” room, dedicated to books on interior design, art, fashion, and more. / Photo by Mona Miri

Cushions and throw pillows upholstered in fabrics from Sister Parish Design, which also crafted the shop’s various wallcoverings, accent reading nooks, and window seats. / Photo by Mona Miri