NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Tucked at the bottom of a stairway in the East Village sits an unlikely store.
Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks contains roughly 5,000 cookbooks from the 19th and 20th centuries. The vast majority of titles are out of print.
“Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks is a culmination of a dream I didn’t know I had when I was growing up,” owner Bonnie Slotnick said. “I grew up lying under the dining room table, reading one of my mother’s cookbooks. It was The Settlement Cook Book, which is a book that was published by a group of German Jewish women in Milwaukee, originally at the very beginning of the 20th century.”
Over the years, she amassed a collection before opening the shop.
“My passion for [cookbooks], and the fact that people have a similar passion, makes this store work,” she said.
She stocks the shelves with thrift store finds and purchases from private collections. She takes pride in giving an old cookbook new life.
“We totally speak in the terms of puppy rescue when we talk about old cookbooks—we want them to go to loving homes,” she said.
In many cases, handwritten notes from past owners adorn tattered pages. Some books are stained from years of use in the kitchen.
“Some people like that in a book,” she said. “Other people find it really repellent to have a book that’s not clean.”
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Slotnick says that cookbooks aren’t only for cooking.
“A lot of people just read cookbooks. They’re not just looking for a recipe,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many hundreds of people have told me, ‘I read myself to sleep with cookbooks. I read them like they’re detective stories.'”
Slotnick says people who may have switched to digital books are now coming back to ones with pages they can turn.
“I think there was a period when people thought that books were just over. Kindles were the way to go,” she said. “Now, people are coming back and saying they like to hold a book in their hands. They like to have a place to write their notes.”
She says that her shop is not only a place to buy a cookbook but also a gathering space for like-minded people.
When customers strike up a conversation, she likes to call out, “You don’t get that on Amazon!”
To her, Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks is also a symbol in the community.
“It represents the fact that a business like this can survive.”
Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks
28 E 2nd Street
New York, NY 10003
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