Books & Brews chain losing Carmel location, down to 5 stores

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Indianapolis-based used bookstore chain Books & Brews, which was in fast-expansion mode just four years ago, will be down to five locations when its Carmel store closes this week.

Owners Alex and Lori Stanley, who opened the first Books & Brews franchise  in 2017, cited the effects of the pandemic for their decision to close their business in Carmel City Center at the end of the day Saturday.

The closure will leave Books & Brews with five stores, down from 10 just two years ago. Stores in Broad Ripple, Mass Ave, Muncie and Oxford, Ohio, also have gone out of business.

The chain’s flagship store on the northeast side of Indianapolis remains open, as do locations on the south side of Indianapolis and in Zionsville, Brownsburg and Noblesville.

“The pandemic has brought many changes to our lives, including that of this business,” the Stanleys wrote in a social media post. “Our customers have been amazing and supported us through those tough beginning months and thereafter. But as the pandemic continues, we have decided to close B&B Carmel.”

The Stanleys said they were giving away books and board games and selling remaining furniture, glassware and merchandise.

Books & Brews was launched by owner Jason Wuerfel with a single store in March 2014. He opened another company-owned store in Zionsville in 2016, then began adding franchised stores in 2017, starting in Carmel.

In addition to books, the stores offer craft beers and locally sourced food, and encourage social gatherings through trivia contests and board games. The Stanleys said they hosted more than 40 fundraisers for not-for-profits during their four years in business.

Wuerful also owns downtown brewery Rad Brewing Co., which is scheduled to close Nov. 27.

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9 thoughts on “Books & Brews chain losing Carmel location, down to 5 stores

  1. The story of the rise and fall of Books and Brews is far more complicated than the simple story of the pandemic would suggest. Their decline began well before the pandemic set in, and, I would argue, they were already falling when they were featured in a NY Times article in 2019. There are two things that seem to me especially important in explaining their fall, and they may be related. One is that their beer, while often interesting, was never consistently good. There were quality control issues from the beginning. The second is that the franchise model, which they pursued , may not translate very easily to craft beer. i remember when the Speedway franchise, near my house, closed soon after the NY Times article came out. It puzzled me that they shoudl close at a time of such good publicity, when many companies would want to expand. But, as I thought about it, I realized that the Speedway franchise had a different owner, and a different set of priorities and needs than the mother ship. This lack of consistency and uniform decision making, then, seems to be at the heart of the problem, and it seems to me likely that the five remaining outposts will also close in coming months.

  2. My son & I were at the 96th B&B tonight. Is our favorite place to get a beer and, as the brand suggests, converse.

    It’s unfortunate that beers and conversation are not as valuable as they need to be to sustain a lease, beer production & staff. But that doesn’t mean they are not valuable. Five stores in the metro are impressive! Learning is hard!

    This news may inspire others to support their local ‘wattering hole.’ Each location success/failure is feedback – not a failure,

  3. I remember that this location started out as a Kickstarter asking for donations. It didn’t make its donation goals, and it was very close to losing all its donations if not for a last second exact-change donation to reach it’s 100% goal.
    I liked the place, but as it doesn’t brew it’s own beer, the slapped-together furniture and bar was light on charm.

  4. Nobody went to the location in Broad Ripple. I was a local for 5 years and never went, not even one time. We actually loved and went to the Monon Food Company! Indy has better breweries that MAKE good beer and get this… have board games and a chill environment.