Barter books for a tab at Bushwick’s first bookstore

Owner Matthew Winn dishes the lattes and literature. Photos by Paul Ker.

Bushwick finally has a bookstore! Molasses Books, which opened at 770 Hart St. late last month, is built for lingering. Affordable is the key element, with “the average book that doesn’t suck being in the $5-8 range,” owner Matthew Winn tells us. The extra bonus is the barter system: you can trade books for coffee (or more books), and eventually beer and wine.

“If you come with a great stack of new books and want a $30 coffee tab? Cool,” Winn says. He estimates that within two months Molasses will have a tavern license (for beer and wine). The shop is a nice alternative to pricey rare book shops and vintage retailers smattering north Brooklyn and beyond.

The space was formerly a barbershop, then briefly a painting studio before Molasses came in. Winn has spent about the last seven years in Bushwick — previously selling books on the street and working at a coffee shop. He studied literacy at the New School, so Molasses is a perfect amalgamation of his years here. The bookstore is the first in the neighborhood (in recent memory).

Though Winn has been working 13-hour days, six to seven days per week, he isn’t yet looking for employees or even volunteers. You should shoot your ideas his way, though – potential readings, zine and comics distribution, and foreign language books were all up for conversation.

The shop hopes to have a beer/wine license within two months.

“Laptops are cool for now, just not at the bar,” Winn says. He wants to keep Molasses a social and comfortable place for customers reading — it is a book store after all. High-ceilings and sunshine gleaming through the front windows breathes openness into this tiny but well-curated store that seats about 12-15 (with plenty of standing room). It has great work-space potential and a couple of tables to set up shop.

Molasses lets you trade your old books for store credit.

The average book is $1-10, and art books are $15-25. A lot of stuff is mint condition but comes from a second-hand seller, with very few antique gems that may cost a bit more. Customers will find loads of fiction covering one wall, and non-fiction, art, photography, and everything in between on the other side.

As for the buying and selling system, there isn’t an exact science just yet. You’ll get about a third of the resale value in cash, or a little more for trade or a tab at the bar. The value of selling the average book or two is about the same price as coffee.

Molasses is cool with you bringing a laptop. For now.

When it comes to some treasured personal collection, it’s really all up for grabs at Molasses: “I’ve only kept things that were gifts, but for the most part I don’t have a home collection. I’ve had books that were less cool than what I was selling, so I thought ‘Why would I hold on to these shitty books if I’m selling nicer ones on the street?’ Nothing is off limits.”


Hot coffee $2/2.50

Iced coffee $2.75/3.25

Iced tea $2.75/3.25 (Moroccan mint/ Pekoe lemon peel)

Iced chocolate $2.75/3.25

Drink prices include tax – book prices do not.

Oh, and bananas are 75 cents.

The store is open seven days a week from 8-8, with the exception of Monday, when it closes at noon.

“Whether or not there’s any retail value to the community” is the crucial element for selling books anywhere, but Winn laid out exactly what that means for his new Bushwick spot:

-rare and/or older editions of classic literature

-art books

-nothing too glossy

-well established books with cool covers

-20th century experimental

-non-English books, yes, but Spanish mostly

-a good cannon of “classic”

-poetry. “Ginsberg and Kerouac fly off the shelves.”

-paperbacks, because they sell cheaper

-paperbacks from the 40s-70s. “That’s when paperbacks had the best design.”

In short: paperback books that are in good condition, but are also cool and old and can probably sell for less than $10.

The storefront at 770 Hart St.

Molasses Books, 770 Hart St, Bushwick, is open 7 days a week from 8-8, with the exception of Monday, when it closes at noon. Dekalb or Myrtle Wyckoff L, or Knickerbocker M, or a myriad of buses

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