Lebanon News

New book store draws crowd with hard-to-find niche publications

BEIRUT: On one wall of Paper Cup book store are magazines. Glossy and upright, one copy of each, standing side to side on slender silver rails stretching about 25 feet. Magazines like Giant Robot, Blind Spot and Wholphin, niche magazines about art, design, fashion and news. Trendy magazines you can only find in San Francisco or London.

On the parallel wall are books. Nan Goldin, Bae Bieu-u, Guy Tillim and Peter Bird - not many people know about photographers and artists like these, but you can find them here. Matte black, glossy white, organized by section and stacked high enough that you need a sliding ladder to reach them.

That's what the book and tea shop that opened Monday in Mar Mikhael specializes in: niche publications that are hard to find anywhere else in Beirut.

"Why not create a space that's a bit more specialized, a bit different, and find books that you don't necessarily find elsewhere?" said owner of Paper Cup Rania Naufal, about why she opened her store.

Paper Cup sells books on subjects including architecture, design, photography, art, graphic novels and even a small kinky section. The selection of magazines offered is still being finalized. The store also has a few tables and a couch to eat the tea and sweets the shop sells in addition to the reading materials.

Naufal is sure that people will be drawn to her specialized publications, after all it may be the only store that sells a certain title in Beirut, she says.

Finding Paper Cup on the other hand, may be a bit of a challenge. The store is located on Pharaoh Street, in what's known as a mechanics' neighborhood.

But for Naufal, the neighborhood auto shops are part of the draw for her customers. "They are off-putting for certain people, but usually it's the older generation," she said. "I know a lot of people said 'a mechanics neighborhood' like they were sort of shocked, but the younger generation is like, 'cool I love the neighborhood.'"

Naufal's idea to start a trendy business on Pharaoh Street may be a first, but it may not be the last. She said several people have stopped by her shop to see if there are other spaces for rent in the area. 

"I love this neighborhood, it's so authentic and I feel it has potential to grow into a small, cute interesting neighborhood," said Naufal. 

The idea to start a specialized publication store in Beirut has been a long time coming for Naufal, as her studies have been geared toward the publication business. Originally from Ras Beirut, she studied publishing at New York University and Stanford, and she recently took a job at Levant, a magazine distributor.

The idea for the shop came to her after that, when she decided to start her business in Beirut instead of moving to London. "A lot in this project was gut feeling, last year [when] I was at a point where I needed a change," said Naufal.

Naufal said she hopes her knowledge of publishing continues to grow as she manages her new shop. "I knew that I would learn a lot from my customers," she said.

Paper Cup is located in the Hagopian building on Pharaoh Street in Mar Mikhael, Beirut.





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