Cookbook store profile - The Cook Book Stall

It's time for another installment in the EYB series highlighting independent cookbook stores. Discover (or get reacquainted with) a store near your home - or plan a new target destination when you travel.

To keep this feature vital, we're asking our members to help us. We already know of many great stores, (you can view the full list here), but we'd love to learn about more - especially those treasured by our members. So please share the names of independent cookbook stores that you know, love, admire, or are just plain crazy about. Add a comment to this posting, or email us at info@eatyourbooks.com with the name, address, and owner (if you know it). We'll do the rest.

The Cook Book Stall

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is home to the Reading Terminal Market, a vibrant and historic public food market located in the heart of the city. Tucked away between food and tableware vendors you will find The Cook Book Stall, an independent cookbook store specializing in interesting and unique titles not readily seen in the chain stores. This gorgeous shop, a feature of the market for over 30 years, has been highlighted in Saveur magazine as one of the ten best places in the world to buy a cookbook. Owner Jill Ross answered questions posed by EYB about the store. 

Two cookbook stores have closed down in the last year - The Cookbook Store in Toronto and Salt and Pepper Books in Maryland. How does The Cook Book Stall stay competitive in the current trading environment, where online stores offer low prices and free home delivery? 

I am sad that two bookstores closed; it is a tough business. I have an awesome location in the Reading Terminal Market. It is a historical landmark and a destination for tourists. We are close to the convention center and that helps. I also have an online shop that I promote in the store and I offer a discount from there. I have a great sign in my store that says "find it here, buy it here, keep us here" and most people like it and it makes them think. I also allow no cell phone pictures, either of the bar code or the cover of the book. That kind of pisses people off, but I explain to them the reason and they are usually cool about not taking the picture.

Why do the customers in your store prefer to come to The Cook Book Stall rather than stores such as Barnes & Noble or online shopping?

I think that people like to shop here because I try and make it very inviting. I also hear people say that they like it because they have never been in a cookbook-only shop. I always have interesting titles out and try to find cute things to catch their eyes. I think that people like the attention that I can give them and the time I put in trying to find the perfect book.

Do you specialize in any particular areas of cookbooks? 

I don't specialize in any specific type of cookbooks; I try to have titles that you wouldn't find walking into a Barnes and Noble. I have a nice section for making food for pets and a great selection of kids' cooking books.

Do you import many books from overseas?

I don't import any books, but I do carry a magazine from Sweden called Fool, which is amazing!

What currently are the big sellers at The Cook Book Stall?

The big sellers right now are fermentation and preserving books. My local books are always a big seller for me too.

Are many of your customers professional chefs? What are the books that they are buying now? 

I have a lot of chefs that shop here, usually on Mondays; their selections can range from butchering to tapas. They all love the Phaidon books and other chefs' books. Fool magazine is a big hit.

What type of books do you like to cook from yourself? Do you have a favorite cookbook of all time?

They are all my favorites! I could never pick just one. My go to book when I am stumped is Heidi Swansons' Super Natural Cooking.

What events to you have at the store in the next couple of months? 

I have a couple of events coming up, I have a signing/demo with Priya Krishna author of Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks, that will be on 18 September. I am also planning on a waffle demo in August, to coincide with a new book coming out called Will it Waffle. I want to have some fun with that.

2 Comments

  • boardingace  on  7/16/2014 at 11:40 PM

    It is lovely to see the owner's confidence in running a cookbook shop! It sounds like a great combination of excellent location and excellent business skills/customer service.

  • Deborah  on  7/23/2014 at 10:14 PM

    Thanks for the mention of Priya Krishna's Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks. I just ordered it for my son who's starting college in the fall! And I'll be sure his older brother who lives in South Philly checks out The Cook Book Stall!

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