Since opening in Tremont three and a half years ago, Crust
(1020 Kenilworth Ave., 216-583-0257) enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with Visible Voice Books. When the tiny pizza shop filled up, as it did most evenings, waiting diners would kill time across the street browsing the shelves or enjoying a beer or glass of wine in the picturesque courtyard. When guests at bookstore events wanted something to eat, they made the short trek over to Crust.
That mutually beneficial relationship ended when Visible Voice owner Dave Ferrante made the tough call to shutter his eight-year-old bookstore in late 2014. But if everything works out as planned, the two businesses will be enjoying an even chummier arrangement in the near future.
Ferrante recently purchased the Komorowski Funeral Home building (2258 Professor Ave.) in Tremont, which is located next to Banyan Tree and across the street from Dante and Next Door. The spacious three-level structure not only has room for both Crust and Visible Voice, says Crust owner Mike Griffin, but also front and back patios and an unheard-of-in-Tremont 26-car parking lot.
“We’ve got six or seven different sets of plans we’re working with for the funeral home,” explains Griffin, who along with Ferrante is working with architect Brian Fabo. “I think what we’ll do is combine Visible Voice with Crust in one building. I think it would be good for Tremont to get the bookstore back, and to get more space for Crust.”
The initial plan calls for a main floor Crust and second-floor – possibly with an open mezzanine layout – Visible Voice Books. Visible Voice will bring along its beer and wine license, and Crust will expand its offerings to feature more food options, especially in the dessert and pastry department. Griffin’s seating will increase exponentially to approximately 60 inside and more on planned front and back patios.
But while the Crust part of the equation is all but a certainty, the Visible Voice element is still very much a work in progress.
“I’m excited about it, but at the same time it’s a long planning process,” says Ferrante. “The Crust piece is definitely going to happen and I would like to complement it with doing the bookstore again. But I’m going to be very deliberate about how I go about it. There are so many opportunities with that building it’s unbelievable. One of the things I liked most about the [former] bookstore was the courtyard and there’s plenty of room to put some sort of courtyard there.”
Ferrante has more than 60,000 books in storage, relocated from his former bookstore, a building he still owns. Despite his reasonable apprehension, reopening the bookstore is something he not only wants to do but thinks is a smart business decision given the right circumstances.
“Even when I closed I said that I would potentially be willing to reopen if I found the right opportunity – and I still believe the business model works if you keep your overhead low,” he explains. “I always felt I didn’t have enough room there. This would double the space I had and would allow me to explore a lot more different price points.”
Griffin, who owns the building in which Crust currently operates, says he will begin entertaining offers from potential tenants with creative ideas for the space. Given its off-the-beaten-path location, he says the space requires a unique approach.
Griffin estimates an 8- to 10-month build-out on the new space.