On any day of the week, it’s not uncommon to spot people sipping prosecco while perusing the stacks at Turn of the Corkscrew Books and Wine in Rockville Centre.
The South Shore shop is stocked with more than just classic reads and best-sellers — the two-floor venue has a bar and cafe that serves wine, beer, coffee and sandwiches.
Owners Peggy Zieran and Carol Hoenig worked for decades at the now-shuttered Borders bookstores chain. Combined, they have more than 30 years of book-selling experience.
Unwilling to shelve their passion for the industry, the women decided to capitalize on the resurgence of independent bookstores, opening Turn of the Corkscrew last year.
“We are great believers in bookstores but also knew we needed another revenue stream to keep us afloat,” said Hoenig, a Bellmore resident. “In addition, we felt a refreshment from our cafe would add to the social aspect of the events we host, and that has been the case.”
The store’s success has been dependent on filling it with more than just beer and books. Hoenig and Zieran have made sure to schedule weekly readings and discussion groups as well.
“Since we are new, we try to have something going on in the store every night,” Hoenig said.
Hoenig and Zieran, who lives in Levittown, host more than 20 book discussion groups each month, sometimes as many as two a night. They regularly invite guest authors for readings in the venue’s basement, which can accommodate up to 50 people. Late last month, local author Natalie S. Harnett led a discussion on her coming-of-age novel, “The Hollow Ground.” Adam Haslett, a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist, will visit the store on Friday, May 6, to discuss his novel “Imagine Me Gone,” the painful tale of a family’s dissolution told from multiple points of view.
Barbara Schilling of Oceanside and her 20-year-old daughter, Ann, were among a handful of people who attended Harnett’s reading. They said the author events and the venue’s cozy vibe attracted them to Turn of the Corkscrew.
“I think it’s nicer than the commercialization of a big bookstore. It’s more intimate,” said Schilling, 50. “I don’t think if I was in a larger bookstore that I would talk to anyone.”
At Turn of the Corkscrew, customers are encouraged to stroll down the aisles with a beverage in hand as they explore new authors and titles, or dissect book themes in conversations at the venue’s modest bar.
Despite the rise of the e-book and online behemoth Amazon.com, whose drones may someday make same-day deliveries, experts say there has been a slow but steady resurgence of independent bookstores. In the past seven years, independent bookstores have grown more than 30 percent, according to the American Booksellers Association.
“There’s something about a physical book that is so powerful,” Hoenig said. “To be able to open a book and leaf through the pages is a sensory experience.”
The smaller stores are filling the void left by the likes of Borders, which went out of business in 2011, and Barnes & Noble, whose national sales are declining.
For their part, Hoenig and Zieran say they have little reason to feel threatened.
“In reality, we don’t consider them our competition since we are offering something much different,” Hoenig said. “Meaning, we have created a place for friends, family and dates to socialize.”