Archive Book Cafe in Fall River preparing to open in November

Archive Book Cafe in Fall River preparing to open in November

FALL RIVER — Brenna Custadio is aiming to write a new chapter in Fall River’s history. 

She’s the brains behind the bar at Archive Book Cafe, a new combination bookstore and coffee shop set to open on North Main Street sometime in November. 

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“There are a lot of good cafes in this area, but nothing kind of like this,” Custadio said. 

As a bookstore alone, it will have no peers in Fall River. And Custadio went far outside the city to find the inspiration to mix books with coffee: the West Coast.  

Custadio, a Coast Guard veteran, lived for a while near the Pacific, from San Francisco to Seattle. “Everywhere out there has coffee mixed with everything,” she said. “Every bookstore has a coffee shop. Consignment shops have coffee shops. There are coffee shops when you’re getting your tires changed. 

“I was fortunate enough in the Coast Guard to travel a little bit, and I just thought, ‘This is my hometown. I love my hometown.’ But I also feel we need some new, different things.” 

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A touch of the West Coast 

That Pacific vibe extends to the building itself. In a city known for tenements and Victorians, the home at 321 N. Main St. is a unique fixture — mustard stucco with a Spanish tile roof. Custadio said when she saw it for sale after a law office moved out, she knew it fit right in with her plans for Archive Book Cafe.  

She and her husband have been working with contractors for months to get the building ready for customers. It’s still a work in progress, though they’re closer to opening now than ever. They’ve torn down the ivy growing along the building’s Locust Street side — much of it poison ivy, as they found out the hard way, and growing into the stucco walls. Plantings and hedges out front are gone, replaced by a patio shaded by a tree, with plenty of outdoor seating and space for a musician or two — an idea also on Custadio’s radar. She’s even designated a spot outdoors that’s dog-friendly.  

Inside, they’ve peeled back the old law office’s fusty wall-to-wall carpeting and restored the home’s hardwood floors to a gorgeous gleam, giving the place a classy but comfortable touch. The bathroom is wallpapered with pages from novels. In the dining areas, Custadio has installed an upright piano, and the paneling and ceilings are radiant, with built-in bookcases flanking a fireplace marked “Floo Network” — a “Harry Potter” reference. A small, bright room set off from the others is just for kids, with a tiny table of their own and picture books on display. 

Archive Book Cafe turns the page

Fall River hasn’t been much of a player over the years when it comes to hosting bookstores, and Custadio is hoping Archive Book Café can change that. But she’s not hoping to compete with the selection at the giants like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. For the most part, Archive Book Café would operate more like a consignment shop with used books. 

“People could come and bring books, and we would give them, say, 25 cents for every book that they bring in,” Custadio said. “And then other people coming in, say they wanted to buy them, they could buy them for, like, 50 cents.” 

She stressed that she’s aiming to sell books at affordable prices.  

“A lot of people don’t want to spend $25 on a brand-new hardcover, and I don’t blame them,” she said. “I drop my books in the bath all the time.”   

The shelves at Archive are filled with literature of all genres: thrillers, romances, dramas, histories and classics. She’s got hardcovers, mass-market paperbacks and trade paperbacks — something for every reader’s taste.  

Custadio is also planning on having a small selection of new books, with a curated selection based on what’s hot, trendy or relevant at that time of year.  

“What I wanted to do was a book menu, where every month we could pick out certain books from certain genres,” she said. “And then every month, change up the new books we have, and not have this big, huge selection. … This would be more of a personalized thing.”   

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She’s connecting with local book clubs for ideas, too, and reaching out to local authors who might want to promote their work. 

“What we wanted to do was try to engage with the community,” she said. “This is really a lot about community — see what people might want to see, see what local authors might want to come out and do book signings.” 

Her own taste in literature is clear, thanks to bits of “Harry Potter” memorabilia around the coffee house and her office. But not only.  

“I like a lot of the classics,” Custadio said. “I do end up reading a lot of the young adult stuff, because I like to be in the know. … I do like a lot of poetry.” On her desk, next to the computer, she held up a small pocket-sized volume of poems she keeps nearby for inspiration. “I like Edgar Allan Poe, and as we’re going into fall and it’s getting spooky, I’ve brought him back.” 

Sweets and snacks with Moxie

Custadio said Archive Book Café will be using coffee from a crop-share company called Pura Vida that roasts Costa Rican beans in honey, giving the coffee a rich and full-bodied flavor without tasting over-roasted. 

“This is very, very smooth, where you could almost drink it by itself and it’s almost on the sweet side without even adding anything to it. There’s no bitter aftertaste,” Custadio said.

It’ll be the basis for their house blend and espresso drinks — including a signature beverage, the Moxie, an iced, creamy, espresso-based drink with hints of vanilla. 

For those looking to try a variety of coffee experiences, she said she’s planning on creating coffee flights. Tea drinkers will have something to enjoy too, with products from MEM Tea out of Boston, and matcha tea and tea lattes in the plan. 

Custadio is hoping to feature a little Pacific Coast inspiration on the food menu, as well.  

“I really want to do breakfast tacos,” she said. “Tacos are so awesome, right? They are so functional. You can get breakfast burritos, but the breakfast tacos, where you can add different toppings and stuff — they’re very easy, they’re delicious, and I don’t know why we don’t have any around here.”

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She’s also been working on a recipe for avocado toast. “I have this one, a Mexican street corn that’s just so phenomenal.”  

Archive will, of course, also have a menu of pastries and baked goodies. Custadio says while some noshables will be made in-house, she’s also hooking up with vendors in the community like Thyme Blossom nearby on Purchase Street and PVDonuts.  

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Building on Fall River’s culture

Her goal with Archive Book Café isn’t just to run a joint where customers grab a coffee and go — but sit, chill with a book and a snack, and enjoy the community. To that end, Custadio is so far planning to stay open later than most local coffee shops: from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

“I find that a lot of people, when they’re done with work or the middle of the day, they want that pick-me-up, that second wind,” she said, “or they don’t want to go out to, say, a bar or a full-on restaurant. And they don’t really have the option for that café feel.”

Custadio is aiming to create a place that has its own niche among the city’s restaurants and cafes, importing ideas from other places across the globe back to North Main Street.

“Fall River is its own culture. It’s not even a Portuguese culture, really, it’s a Fall River culture,” Custadio said. “But I just also think there are enough people here that think they have to leave and go to Providence or Newport, and it blows my mind because we have this amazing city here that should be so much more prominent than what it is. … It would be nice to have some different options and not feel like you have to leave the city to find that.” 

Dan Medeiros can be reached at dmedeiros@heraldnews.com. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Herald News today.


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