When Anne Holcomb moved to Dallas after working in theater in Argentina for three years, she felt like she was missing something. In Argentina, the theaters and book publishers were on the same street, so the bookstores became a haven for an expatriate whose Spanish was admittedly “okay, but not great.”
Holcomb intended to teach in Dallas, but soon after her return she met John Walsh in a meditation class. The two started a cookie company, and eventually opened Serj Books and Local Food, Dallas’ newest bookstore and coffee shop.
Walsh found the downtown location for Serj Books with the help of a friend who had offices across the street, and the bookstore and coffee shop opened to the public in fall 2014. The charm surrounding the coffee shop was immediately palpable.
“There are lots of magical little stories about this place that don’t make sense, like old college roommates coming in at the same time,” Holcomb said. “Little connections people make here that you witness that are so strange, but touching.”
That same spirit of human connection and touch emanates from the books lining the wood- paneled walls of the shop.
“Our books defy categorization,” Walsh said. “That’s the point. It’s: just because. Because these are great books. Because it means something for a person to pick up a book, skim through it, read the first and last page and the front and back cover and then take it home – or back to the office to share. Because it means something to connect a person with a book that can confirm or challenge a thought or an idea.”
One might initially visit Serj for the books and atmosphere, but they will find themselves coming back again and again for the food and coffee, all of which is fresh and locally sourced.
Serj partners with Big D Barbecue, a third-generation family-owned barbecue joint in Mansfield that makes renowned organic barbecue sauce. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the menu is made on toasted cinnamon toast with JJ&B Jelly. The award-winning jam of JJ&B Jelly is made by a local corporate recruiter.
The bookstore’s coffee partner is Dallas-based Noble Coyote Coffee Roasters, and Serj provides myriad drinks with which to wash down the fresh sandwiches.
“Our barista Quinton is really inventive,” Holcomb said. “We’ve started a lot of specialty drinks, because we’re trying to keep it fresh and give people something new when they come in the door.”
“Come, smell some cookies, have some ice cream, relax for a minute, then go about your day,” Holcomb said.