In the company of books

Caroline Millin

Rediscover the joy of reading, sip on a fresh cup of coffee and get some work done in a quiet space only eight miles from campus. Travel down Whitney Avenue and you’ll come upon a little place called Books and Company, a used book store with a small coffee shop inside. The shop is owned by Linda Mooser, and it has been around for almost 21 years.

The store is open to people of all ages and interests, as well as pets. In fact, Mooser says her dog, Lily, is the co-owner of the shop.

Books are organized and shelved in little nooks, all reasonably priced at half or more off the list price. There is a small seating area with tables by the front windows, but there are armchairs, couches and other tables throughout the shop where anyone can sit, sip and read.

Move through the store and you will find a wide selection of greeting cards and unique gifts, either from local artists or from developing nations. Mooser estimates that about six or eight artists showcase or sell their work through the store.

After you peruse the bookshelves and other gifts, make your way to the back of the store for refreshments. The in-house coffee shop, Legal Grounds, is owned by local attorneys Teresa Fields and Kirsten Mendillo, who share a building and a partnership with Mooser. They offer pastries, gelato and fresh coffee made with a French press. [Editor’s note: try the crumb cake, it’s delicious!]

Didn’t find anything you liked at the coffee shop? Try the adjoining cafe, Le Petit Gourmet. It is another woman-owned business that has a good professional relationship with Books and Company.

Mooser expresses that it’s the passions of the owners that connect the three businesses.

“We’re all here for the same purpose,” Mooser said. “To have a business but also to have a place where the community comes together.”

Mooser explains why she runs the used book shop in a time period so dominated by technology.

“If I can’t be a bookstore, I don’t really want to do it,” said Mooser. “I really want to be able to provide people with the printed word.”

Despite the popularity of e-readers, the market for physical books is still prominent and evident through the store’s success. Additionally, Mooser adjusted her business with the changing times by incorporating gifts and other wares, but kept to her values by promoting local artisans and those from developing nations.

Mooser takes pride in her work and enjoys being the one to bring reading back into the community. She loves when her customers ask for help finding a book or ask for reading suggestions.

“That’s what I’m here to do, to connect people to books,” Mooser said. “People can always come and get their batteries recharged.”

She is proud of the welcoming atmosphere Books and Company creates, as well as the variety of goods it offers.

In addition to its selection of literature, Books and Company showcases not only the work of its local people, but the sense of community that Hamden shares. There’s more to our area than the main stretch of Whitney Avenue that we know and love, so venture a little farther down the road. Especially as the weather gets colder, the shop provides a warm place to sip a coffee, snack on a pastry, browse unique gifts or discover your next favorite book.