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An extraordinary bookshop, the Slovak way

It is not only the range of books on offer but also the business model that is quite unusual for Brot Books Deli in Bratislava. There is no girls’ fiction or Scandinavian crime fiction, but plenty of exciting books and magazines that would make a creative lick all ten fingers. Best of all, it’s all community-funded.

Brot Books Deli bookshop was popular even before it opened its doors wide in Bratislava’s Old Town. In this case, “popular” means “commercially successful” too, because the capital needed to start the shop was raised–unusually–through community funding. We came across the initiative in the Slovakian Forbes and it was already clear to us that the founders of madebythe had once again embarked on something extraordinary (we wrote about the paper brand, dubbed as Moleskine’s ‘Slovak counterpart’, here—the Ed.).

Ivan Zaťko and Juraj Zamborský first talked about their future plans a year ago during a hiking trip, when the idea of opening a bookshop came up. With the coronavirus, they focused all their attention on online sales, but the new idea had been nagging at them. They knew they needed someone more experienced in the business, so they teamed up with their old friend Martin Jenča, co-founder of advertising agency Folk & Milk, to embark on a new adventure.

They all agreed that, while they wanted to appeal to creatives like themselves, they didn’t want to stop at pretty book covers. Over the years, Ivan and Juraj (or Zambo as they call them) have had their hands on countless foreign reading, motivational and self–development books—which they have benefited from when developing their notebooks—and have recommended them to their paper-obsessed followers. Something similar is happening today, now within the walls of the shop, where only books they like are allowed in.

In Panenská Street, where their store is located, there are several bookstores nearby, but Brot Books Deli does not see them as competitors: they offer a very special (as they say: delicate) selection, and the interior, designed by Grau Architects, is quite unique too. The size of the shop is cozy enough, but unlike traditional bookshops, there are no labels or categories: the owners want customers to feel free to browse through the books and discover the most exciting ones. And if a specific question arises or a personal recommendation is needed, help comes first hand.

Fortunately, the range of products is quite wide: in addition to bestsellers from popular foreign publishers such as The Do Book Company, you can also find the well-known Monocle magazine or the Harvard Business Review, and as a curiosity, you can also get your hands on issues of the Slovak-published but also English-language Backstage Talks (fortunately, we had already picked up a few issues earlier, we can only recommend them—the Ed.).

But it’s not just the range of books that makes Brot Books Deli an extraordinary undertaking: while other bookstores (or any other store) focus on the moment of opening, the Bratislava “super-team” has turned to their familiar model of community funding. With a well-constructed campaign and a loyal group of followers, they have managed to attract customers before they even crossed the bookstore’s threshold.

The trio was joined by Michal Meško, the founder of Martinus (Slovakia’s largest online bookstore—the Ed.), who has stepped in as a mentor and investor: if 20,000 euros are raised, Meško will double the amount. The initial milestone of €5,000 was quickly reached, and the €15,000 mark is now expected to be reached soon, at which point a small café will be added to the shop.

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