Profiles: De Utrechtse Boekenbar – love for books and the city Utrecht
Every few weeks we interview an inspiring entrepreneur or artist chosen from our online network, Profiles. This week: De Utrechtse Boekenbar.
Since 2017, De Utrechtse Boekenbar can be found on the outskirts of the centre of Utrecht. In this fresh looking bookstore you can find books as well as a professionally brewed cup of coffee. Tim van den Hoed (30), owner of De Boekenbar, is there for five days a week and always searching for the right balance between a pleasant buzz and a solid revenue.
He also organises events in the vaulted cellar underneath the store, for which not the least of names have turned up. “Pepijn Lanen has been here twice now, which I think is really cool, because I’m a bit of a fan of his.”
What three books should everyone read at least, in your opinion?
Haha, that kind of interview?!
Just checking your taste!
This is so hard, because I always have a talk with people that are searching for a book at our place. Everyone has their own preference in genres. But if I had to choose it would be: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. You really have to read that one. I also think you should read something by Gerard Reve. I love books that have a lot of humour in them, preferably very dark humour. Reve is very harsh, ironic, cynical and he is one of the three great Dutch writers of course. In the past year I discovered a writer that really grabbed me: Otessa Moshfegh. I would recommend her books to anyone.
I sometimes buy a book that ends up in my closet after browsing through it for an afternoon. Can you relate to that?
When I buy a book, I usually finish it. Nowadays I do stop reading a book if I don’t like it for one reason or another. Because there’s so much to read I don’t want to waste my time reading a book I’m not into.
In an interview you once told that you should judge a book by it’s cover. What are your criteria for a good cover?
It’s a cliché answer, but it has to grab and move you. It’s also just a joke of course. Everyone always says don’t judge a book by it’s over, but in stores almost all books are displayed with their covers facing front. I do think the complete product of a book is important. The content, the way it’s printed, the paper, that’s why I wanted to run a physical bookstore.
You have a lot of books about photography and art in your collection. Would you say Utrecht is a creative city?
Indeed. More and more so. We also have an exhibition space in the cellar and a lot of Utrecht based artists approach us because they’re interested in exhibiting their work. I think the creative scene is growing in Utrecht. The HKU (Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht, Academy for the arts Utrecht) also ensures new growth.
Through crowd funding you raised more than 50.000 euro to set up the book bar. Seems exciting to me. Have you always been this enterprising?
Before this I had a regular office job at Bol.com. I did learn to think in a commercial way, but I knew very quickly that the job wasn’t for me. I also hesitated to set this up. It took me two years to get from the first idea to really doing this. The risk is what initially kept me from doing it.
You’ve been running your business for two years now. How’s it going?
In the beginning it was hard to deal with the quieter days. I lacked trust and didn’t quite know what entrepreneuring was. Now that’s changed, fortunately. Everything is running smoothly and I have gained more trust. I really have fun and it is what I expected it to be. But it took quite some time to get there. We’re organising more and more events these days. We have quite a lot of reading clubs for instance. We read a certain book with a group of around twenty people and we discuss it. That’s a lot of fun.
You’ve been a guest in the tv-show De Wereld Draait Door multiple times to talk about books. Did that lead to anything business-wise?
Yes, in a sense that publishers have taken me more serious ever since. The brand recognition also increased. But it’s hard to say if it did something for the store. There was growth, but it’s normal for a new store to grow.
What does success mean to you?
I’m satisfied when I have a company that runs so smoothly I can take time off and stay home, haha! No, but I get lots of energy when there’s a pleasant buzz. That’s a balance that I’m still figuring out: do I prefer a lot of people in my store or do I prefer a great revenue? Those are two different things. When it’s a busy day with a lot people drinking coffee and I don’t sell a single book, then revenue is kind of low. But I did have a good day because there was a good vibe. And sometimes no one comes in for a coffee, but people are buying books and I have a great revenue but there’s no pleasant buzz. To me the ultimate success means there is a balance between those two things.
Written by: Sidney Steinmann
Translation by: Renée ter Berg