Ex-chef Cooks Up Reading Potpourri

Briarwood Pleases Book Lovers' Palates

February 02, 1992|By Michael R. Driscoll | Michael R. Driscoll,Staff writer

A word was omitted from a quote in a Sunday feature story about the second-hand and rare book store, Briarwood, on Maryland Avenue in Annapolis.

The correct quote by store owner David Grobani is: "We're not just another overpriced pseudo-rare book shop."

Former chef Dave Grobani may have left his kitchen behind him, but he still sets a pretty good table at Briarwood, his new place.

Originally known as Charing Cross, the small bookstore on Maryland Avenue in Annapolis has been transformed by Grobani into Briarwood, withas wide a selection of second-hand, used, and collectors items as the owner can find.

"I'm very interested in buying people's books," Grobani said, "because I can't maintain this store otherwise." He added that the prices he will offer are based on the "condition of the books, and the desirability, plus whatever I can afford. There's no set formula."

The inventory ranges from rare collector's items: a 1767 edition of the works of Jonathan Swift, a 1774 "History of The Buccaneers of America," an 1855 edition of "The Pirates Handbook," an 1854 edition of "Campfires of the Revolution," by Henry C. Watson, "ThePublic Officers of Massachusetts, 1959-1960," including pictures of Senator John F. Kennedy and Izak Walton's "Compleat Angler."

"I'vealso got about 150 books signed by their authors, in their own little section there, including works by Cecil Beaton and Ogden Nash," Grobani said. "It's amazing, the things that people have in their basement, or their attics."

At the other end, the inventory includes shelves full of paperback science fiction, mystery and other works of fiction for $1 each, and copies of "The Lucky Bag," the year book of the U.S. Naval Academy.

"We're just another overpriced pseudo-rare book shop," Grobani said.

There are also books by local authors, including "Rhythmic Gesture in Mozart" by St. John's instructor Wye Jameson Allenbrook, and "The Catalog Book," by author and entrepreneur James Hollan.

Grobani, in his own words "primarily has been, am still, and always will be a second-hand book lover.

He decided to rebuild the store in that image "after finding out how grueling it can be to maintain a small, new, independent, general interest book shop,"and turn it into a "second-hand, out-of-print, hard-to-find book store."

Grobani took over the store some 18 months ago, leaving a 15-year professional cooking career, including his final stint at Loews Annapolis Hotel as a banquet chef.

He did so, because "I've grown up around books. It's been the one constant love of mine since childhood. My father was a published author and he spent many years in the Library of Congress doing research. He was an avid book collector, and I would accompany Dad on his book-buying expeditions."

The store's previous name, Charing Cross, was taken from the book, "84 CharingCross, by Helene Hanff, which was about a book collector in New Yorkand her correspondence with a London secondhand book dealer at that address. Grobani chose Briarwood because it "is a nice pleasant, new image, non-denominational name."

But he also is maintaining the old Charing Cross tradition of actively supporting the local literary scene.

"I am currently finishing getting all the authors together for the annual book and authors luncheon, over at St. John's for the Caritas Society," he said. "I still plan to do signings here for localauthors and that sort of thing."

Noting that second-hand bookstores have existed in Annapolis before, Grobani said that he felt the times were right for his type of store to make a comeback because "The average price of a new hardback book is $25 to $30. The average priceof a hardback book here is $10. And when you add the extra bonus of it being a book that is no longer published at any price, it seems rather reasonable."

Grobani believes that the atmosphere he is trying to develop at Briarwood will also benefit potential customers.

"It feels like a nice place to come into, not intimidating, not filthydirty, and you don't feel like you need to wash your hands when you leave. And you can walk out with a lot of interesting things and not spend a fortune."

There is a selection of cards in one corner of the store, and several shelves near the front have been removed, giving the store a much roomier feel. A precisely detailed wooden model ofBritish explorer Capt. James Cook's ship "H.M.S. Endeavor," sits in the middle of the main floor.

He mentioned that the store will also stock some new items, including full lines of Dover non-fiction, Penguin classics, and regional interest titles, although old books willbe its main diet.

The official opening date is Feb. 1, but Grobani's "new" store has been doing what he calls a pretty satisfactory business since he completed the reorganization earlier this month.

Briarwood is open Monday through Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 5:30, and on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Information: 268-1440.

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