Long one of the best places to find popular fiction and natural science writing in English here in San José, Costa Rica’s 7th Street Books is getting out of the book business after 18 years.
Owners Marc Roegiers and John McCuen decided to convert their shop, located between avenues zero and 1 (on 7th Street, obviously) and near Parque Morazán, into a full-time café and juice bar in the coming months.
As part of their transition – a large sign out front now reads Jungle Fruit – Roegiers and McCuen announced a 30 percent discount on all books.
After the 2008 financial crisis, the duo started looking for ways to diversify their business away from a tourist base that had diminished after the crisis. Short on space, they added a smoothie and fruit juice stand to their English-language bookstore two yeas ago.
McCuen admitted that the juice stand’s presence in the bookshop was a bit “surreal” at first, but the decision to try something new was less about financial need than an eagerness to start a new venture.
The juice stand was crowded Wednesday afternoon, so much so that Roegiers had to duck out of our interview to lend a hand. As the books start to disappear, McCuen said that other “stands” would go inside the shop offering artisanal ice cream, fruit salads and a pour-over coffee bar. Eventually, they hope to expand into more sit-down fare.
McCuen said that the bookstore, despite being the public face of their business, was always more of a hobby.
Their initial foray into book sales quickly led to publishing.
“People started asking for books that didn’t exist, so we thought, why not try publishing a book?” McCuen told The Tico Times.
Zona Tropical Press was born, with 19 titles to date on nature and biology in Costa Rica, including “The Birds of Costa Rica,” written by Richard Garrigues with illustrations by Robert Dean. Publishing led to distribution, and the core of their business took shape. McCuen and Rogiers also distribute CDs and DVDs from Papaya Music.
Roegiers, guided by taste instead of formal training, is heading the switch to culinary offerings. He said that their juice and smoothie selection is the product of a lot of taste tests. “I think I gained 20 pounds in the process,” he added sheepishly.
Roegiers said they envision their café to offer affordable, fun, healthy food.
“We want to give people the opportunity to make a healthy choice,” he said, adding that the juice stand only adds sugar on customer request.
“But obviously, the ice cream is just going to taste good,” McCuen chimed in.
7th Street Books and Jungle Fruit are open Mon.-Sat., 7 a.m.-6 p.m., and are closed on Sunday. Also, check them out on Facebook here.