Lizzyoung Bookseller may be the only bookstore in Brooklyn displaying a soup can-embellished paper dress. The vintage garment, earned by consumers in the 1960s after sending in soup labels to Campbell (and subsequently hemmed and shortened for style by the women who received the wearable rebate) is just one of the many piece of ephemera that second-generation bookseller Lizz Young offers at her new eponymous bookstore.
Inspired by San Francisco’s Omnivore Books on Food, which vends rare culinary, wine and food books along with new titles by contemporary authors and chefs, Smith, a career bookseller and former pastry chef decided to finally start a brick-and-mortar space of her own.
“You just don’t get a sense of [my collection] unless you actually see it,” Young explains while staffing the register on a blustery December morning a week after her shop officially opened.
She’s obscuring a chipped tile backsplash reading “Cobble Grill,” an enormous metal hood hanging a few feet over her head — appropriately, the 200-square-foot-space now packed was once a neighborhood restaurant.
Before she had her storefront, Young sold at book fairs and online, adding to her collection at rare books shows and through other rare booksellers.
“Everyone knows my specialty,” she says.
The artifacts, ephemera and books would live in Young’s apartment, just a few blocks from her Cobble Hill store — “I have really high ceilings, so I became an IKEA expert,” she laughs — as well as in a storage unit and archive dedicated to the original and personal works of American food writer M.F.K. Fisher.
The shop itself is neat and organized, with food-related volumes dating back to the 1700s, antique menus, cooking pamphlets, sheet music, guidebooks and more lining shelves around the perimeter of the cozy store. Intriguing, ancient-looking (but well-preserved!) items are priced at only a few dollars.
“Ephemera is very affordable,” Young says, “You can actually buy it and start a collection. It’s special and can be a gateway drug to collecting.”
For collectors, pricier items, like the lauded “The Ballet Cook Book” by choreographer George Balanchine’s fourth wife, Tanaquil Le Clercq, or a 1950s-era guide to New York City dining, rival prices of tickets at Lincoln Center or a multicourse dinner nearby, but are not totally unattainable.
Young’s interest in the intersection of food, culture and politics is apparent through the titles, ranging in subject and language, with themes like feminism and multiculturalism streaming coherently from shelf-to-shelf.
This is why Young started her bookstore, at the internet’s peak: “Community,” she says.
- The bookstore will host events with chefs, mixologists and authors. A small kitchen (think a tiny sink and hot plate) will be installed to facilitate tastings.
- In the bookstore’s first weeks, Ken Kawasumi’s “Sushi Art Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Kazari Sushi” has been a top seller.
- Lizzyoung Bookseller is located at 212 Degraw St. in Cobble Hill. For more info, visit lizzyoungbookseller.com.