By Madalyn Watson | Print Managing Editor
As if he was about to remove his top hat, press it against his feathered chest and bow his head, patrons are almost immediately greeted by the statue of an owl. A greeting well-suited for the book lover’s haven, Fabled Bookshop & Café.
Kimberly Batson and Alison Frenzel, co-owners of Fabled, incorporated thematic elements into the bookstore, from a hidden reading nook resembling Harry Potter’s bedroom under the stairs, to a secret entrance through a wardrobe that leads to Narnia.
“We want to be a sanctuary or a haven for people who love to read or who are not yet readers,” Batson said.
Batson wants to give her customers a place that inspires discovery and a quest for knowledge, as well as a place that immerses them into the magic of reading.
“Our purpose is to champion the transformative power and effect that reading has on an individual,” Batson said. “And if we can just bind a love of reading to the hearts and minds of kids at a young age, that’s going to set them up for a life of learning.”
Ever since she was a child, Waco sophomore Beth Butler always loved reading and imagined a place where she could read in peace and talk to other people about her love of books. Now, she works there.
“So many people would come in and be like, ‘Oh, it’s such a like a magical area,’ especially the kids,” Butler said. “Seeing their faces light up as they walked in that was very fun.”
When she is not studying Philosophy and Great Texts at Baylor, Butler can be found meticulously shelving and organizing books with a satisfied smile and concentrated look in her eye.
“The owners and the managers did an awesome job of [collecting] a really intentional book selection for the community,” Butler said. “So that’s been a really special part of the process to me, especially being a very proud Wacoan, knowing that the store was built for Waco.”
After announcing their plans to create their own bookshop and café in February of 2017, local Wacoans and Baylor students alike eagerly waited in anticipation for the book hub, including Montrose, Colo. graduate student Karleigh Conway.
“Having lived in Waco for a little while, I had heard that two women were dreaming up a bookshop,” Conway said. “And I knew that it sounded super dreamy and something I would be interested in being a part of.”
The Baylor student discovered where she belongs amongst the books, coffee and smiling faces and now works as a shift lead at Fabled. Conway described their team at Fabled as a dynamic team caring for one another and working together to create one vision.
“The more that we get our feet wet in the book industry, we see more and more that every bookstore has its own feel,” Batson said. “It has its own personality.”
Batson perused several bookshops when she lived in England before she could find a personality that fit her own bookshop one day.
Not very far from where Batson lived in England, she lost herself in stories while drinking tea in Barter Books, a bookshop converted from an old train station in Alnwick.
“The wife had a love of books, and the husband had a love of trains, so they bought an old train station and made it into a bookstore,” Batson said.
Another bookshop and café that was very formative for Batson was Shakespeare & Co., a popular destination for bookworms traveling through Paris.
“Obviously, we have a very different feel,” Batson said. “[Shakespeare & Co. is] kind of a cozy, nookish kind of place and we’re a little bit more open. But just that sense of like old world, we really wanted to integrate it here to make it feel like it has been here forever.”
Conway found her own cozy, reading nook tucked hidden behind shelves and shelves of books in her place of work.
“There’s also a fabulous chair in that corner,” Conway said. “It kind of encompasses you, it almost wraps around like a good friend or a little hideaway place. It’s a good little reading spot, if you can catch it.”
From the exposed white brick walls and the cozy seating arrangements to the magical elements for children and bookish merchandise, all of the pieces come together to create the atmosphere of Batson and Frenzel’s fantasties.
“There were a lot of places and elements of shops abroad that we wanted to bring in to Fabled, including our English pub sign that hangs over our café bar,” Batson said. “He watches over us.”
At their café, patrons chat over drinks yanked out of their favorite books from their childhood: the Muggle Mocha inspired by Harry Potter, the Rasberry Cordial inspired by Anne of Green Gables and the Frobscottle inspired by The BFG, to name a few.
“Books and coffee. I mean, that’s a match made in heaven,” Batson said.