Coffee-and-books shop to open near VCU’s Monroe Park Campus

1212 west cary abi kulture 1 scaled

Abi’s Books & Brews plans to open at 1212½ W. Cary St. in the spring. (Jack Jacobs photo)

A Cary Street storefront is starting a new chapter as a coffeehouse that will also sell books.

Abi’s Books & Brews is planning to open at 1212½ W. Cary St. this spring. It is taking over a 1,200-square-foot space expected to be largely occupied by the coffeehouse side of the business, with a wall devoted to books for sale.

In addition to coffee, Abi’s is planned to have a breakfast menu, sandwiches and smoothies. The business is expected to open with an inventory of about 2,500 books across genres, including mysteries, children’s stories, science fiction and history.

“We’re trying to have a mix of interesting and unique books,” owner Keith Duffin said. “There’s going to be nonfiction and a fairly robust mystery section because that’s always been a passion.”

The cafe is expected to have seating for 42, a figure Duffin said is a nod to the answer given as the meaning of life by the supercomputer in the 1979 sci-fi novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

keith duffin 1

Keith Duffin

Duffin said the business plans to have a staff of six when it opens. He wants to build an outdoor patio off the back of the storefront for additional seating and to create a pet-friendly area of the store. The shop also plans to make its books available to read on premises as a way to drive sales.

“We’re making it clear to people that any book in the cafe they can read and they can choose to purchase them,” Duffin said.

Startup costs included a multihead espresso machine and bookshelves. Duffin declined to comment on the full investment made in the venture.

Abi’s doesn’t plan to roast its own coffee, Duffin said, and the shop is actively on the hunt for local suppliers to fill out its food and beverage offerings.

Duffin said that as far as he knows the Abi’s combo concept is novel in the Richmond area. It is inspired by his trips to Europe where he enjoyed reading in cafes.

“It doesn’t seem like there’s anything out there,” he said. “You go into a coffeehouse and it’s coffee, and you go into a bookstore and it’s books. We are trying to be experts at both without skimping on either.”

Duffin, who works in information systems, said the store was motivated not just by a love of books but also a desire to create a business that he plans to hand over to his teenage daughter Abi when she becomes an adult.

“She always wanted to have a cafe and she loves books. It marries a lot of concepts she enjoys,” Duffin said.

The business is slated to have a soft opening May 11, which is Abi’s 16th birthday. A grand opening is planned for June 1.

Duffin is the owner of the shop and would look to transfer the business to his daughter when she turns 18. Duffin plans to continue to work in information systems once the shop opens, and his wife, Mailie, will handle day-to-day operations at Abi’s.

While the couple doesn’t have experience owning a store or cafe, Duffin said his wife recently earned a business degree in preparation for Abi’s and has a background in long-term care facilities.

Duffin said the concept originally was envisioned as an online bookseller. He happened across the listing for the Cary Street space and decided to go in on a brick-and-mortar concept, one that he hopes will prove popular with VCU students, given its proximity to the university campus.

The shop’s space was formerly occupied by vape and smoking accessories shop Kulture, which opened in 2014 and operated there for years but is now closed in that location.

1212 west cary abi kulture 1 scaled

Abi’s Books & Brews plans to open at 1212½ W. Cary St. in the spring. (Jack Jacobs photo)

A Cary Street storefront is starting a new chapter as a coffeehouse that will also sell books.

Abi’s Books & Brews is planning to open at 1212½ W. Cary St. this spring. It is taking over a 1,200-square-foot space expected to be largely occupied by the coffeehouse side of the business, with a wall devoted to books for sale.

In addition to coffee, Abi’s is planned to have a breakfast menu, sandwiches and smoothies. The business is expected to open with an inventory of about 2,500 books across genres, including mysteries, children’s stories, science fiction and history.

“We’re trying to have a mix of interesting and unique books,” owner Keith Duffin said. “There’s going to be nonfiction and a fairly robust mystery section because that’s always been a passion.”

The cafe is expected to have seating for 42, a figure Duffin said is a nod to the answer given as the meaning of life by the supercomputer in the 1979 sci-fi novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

keith duffin 1

Keith Duffin

Duffin said the business plans to have a staff of six when it opens. He wants to build an outdoor patio off the back of the storefront for additional seating and to create a pet-friendly area of the store. The shop also plans to make its books available to read on premises as a way to drive sales.

“We’re making it clear to people that any book in the cafe they can read and they can choose to purchase them,” Duffin said.

Startup costs included a multihead espresso machine and bookshelves. Duffin declined to comment on the full investment made in the venture.

Abi’s doesn’t plan to roast its own coffee, Duffin said, and the shop is actively on the hunt for local suppliers to fill out its food and beverage offerings.

Duffin said that as far as he knows the Abi’s combo concept is novel in the Richmond area. It is inspired by his trips to Europe where he enjoyed reading in cafes.

“It doesn’t seem like there’s anything out there,” he said. “You go into a coffeehouse and it’s coffee, and you go into a bookstore and it’s books. We are trying to be experts at both without skimping on either.”

Duffin, who works in information systems, said the store was motivated not just by a love of books but also a desire to create a business that he plans to hand over to his teenage daughter Abi when she becomes an adult.

“She always wanted to have a cafe and she loves books. It marries a lot of concepts she enjoys,” Duffin said.

The business is slated to have a soft opening May 11, which is Abi’s 16th birthday. A grand opening is planned for June 1.

Duffin is the owner of the shop and would look to transfer the business to his daughter when she turns 18. Duffin plans to continue to work in information systems once the shop opens, and his wife, Mailie, will handle day-to-day operations at Abi’s.

While the couple doesn’t have experience owning a store or cafe, Duffin said his wife recently earned a business degree in preparation for Abi’s and has a background in long-term care facilities.

Duffin said the concept originally was envisioned as an online bookseller. He happened across the listing for the Cary Street space and decided to go in on a brick-and-mortar concept, one that he hopes will prove popular with VCU students, given its proximity to the university campus.

The shop’s space was formerly occupied by vape and smoking accessories shop Kulture, which opened in 2014 and operated there for years but is now closed in that location.

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Brett Hunnicutt
Brett Hunnicutt
1 month ago

As an Oregon Hill resident, I’m very much looking forward to the opening. Seems like a great addition to the neighborhood. Best of luck!

Peter James
Peter James
30 days ago

Agreed – it’ll be a great add to the neighborhood. Glad to see this coming.

Freddie LaShure
Freddie LaShure
29 days ago

This is brilliant! I hope this will evolve and grow as intended. I applaud the fact that the parents intend to transfer this to their daughter when she turns 18. I love a good coffee and a good book so I’m excited for them to open.

Last edited 29 days ago by Freddie LaShure