Book Trader Cafe celebrates 20 years

Donning costumes that resembled various literary characters, nearly fifty community members gathered to celebrate the 20th anniversary of New Haven’s Book Trader Cafe on Saturday night.

The local coffeehouse and used book store’s anniversary party was no typical celebration. It was themed around the upcoming Halloween holiday and included a literary-themed costume contest. In addition, the cafe served complementary cheese and wine, while distributing a free book to all attendees at the event.

“A couple times a week, people will tell me this is their favorite spot in New Haven,” owner David Duda said. “We wanted to do something to thank them.”

In an interview with the News, Duda said he was “surprised” that the cafe is celebrating two decades of service. Duda moved from Philadelphia to New Haven to open the Book Trader Cafe in the late 1990s. He said that the store’s proximity to Yale’s campus has helped the business grow and that Book Trader has built up a community of book lovers during its tenure in the Elm City.

Countenances of Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edgar Allan Poe, and Ernest Hemingway won the event’s costume contest -— each receiving a $25 or $50 gift card. Still, Duda could not resist giving an honorable mention to his brother — who came dressed as literary character Llama Llama Red Pajama.

Claire Laffan ’21, a frequent Book Trader customer, said a friend introduced her to the cafe at the beginning of the year. Since then, she has been returning regularly to do her work. She attributed her ability to focus in the space to the store’s “cozy” atmosphere — and coffee.

Strolling through the fiction section on Saturday, Sarah Woodford DIV ’10 expressed her love for literature and sandwiches — two of Book Trader’s highlights.

“It’s a good place for me to take chances on new kinds of books,” Woodford said. “I keep coming back.”

The nearly 15,000 used books lining the store’s walls serve as the backdrop to an intimate cafe and seating area. Store manager Scott Hahn said that books range in price from $2.50 to $5.95, noting that the wide variety of books allows the store to serve all literary tastes.

In addition to trading used books, the Book Trader Cafe sells CDs and DVDs while also buying back University textbooks at the end of each semester. The cafe also caters and sells items online.

“The world has changed since we opened up 20 years ago, and people don’t have as much time for reading,” Duda said. “But I’ve taught my two daughters to read, and I think they’ll teach their children to read. As long as people keep reading, we’ll be around.”

The Book Trader Cafe is located at 1140 Chapel St.

Maya Vaknin maya.vaknin@yale.edu .

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