Welcome to Bell Buckle, a town inviting you to step back in time, slow down the pace, and enjoy the present. Take a break from the sounds of high-traffic highways and from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Walk into Bell Buckle Coffee Shop and Book Swap, where aromas of coffee, caramel and vanilla mix with scents of cinnamon rolls. Stir sugar in your coffee. Take a book from the bookshelf and listen to the fluttering sounds of the pages as you turn them.
Owner Lisa Scimeca invites you to have “delicious gourmet coffee, lattes, cappuccino, teas, bubble teas and smoothies, and homemade baked goods, breakfast, soups and sandwiches while enjoying our book swap.”
“Visitors can find all kinds of goodies,” Scimeca said. “We have everything from bubble tea to smoothies to frozen drinks, to lattes and cappuccinos and anything we can create. We create some specialty drinks – we make sure we have at least two or three specialty drinks and we do them seasonally. We did moon pie latte.”
Scimeca encourages the baristas to use creativity, and that makes their job even more enjoyable, she said.
When Scimeca purchased the coffee shop, she kept its name.
“The name was here when we purchased the shop,” Scimeca said. “We considered changing it to mix things up, but it was already established. The coffee shop has been here for 12 years, but the invisibility (was challenging).”
Now the coffee shop has an entrance on the main street in Bell Buckle.
“Now we are connected to a gift shop, Arlet’s Joy,” Scimeca said. “When we purchased the coffee shop, we took down the wall. We first rented the coffee shop for two years. We recently purchased the building, and we took down the wall that was between the coffee shop and the gift shop. We opened the space up, so we can run it as one. I like to call it ‘sip and shop’ because you can get your coffee and you can wander through the store. You could do your shopping at 7:30 in the morning if you have to pick a gift for somebody. It also allows us now front-of-town access. A lot of people in the past didn’t know there was a coffee shop, as you had to come all the way around the corner – you had to come in the store from the backdoor. When we bought the building, our main goal was to take down the wall so that we have more traffic flow.”
Books add to the experience.
“I have a love for books,” Scimeca said. “I love having books. We had already talked about possibly opening a bookstore, and when the opportunity for the coffee shop came along, the owner we purchased from had that in mind as well. He already had all of the bookshelves custom-built, but they hadn’t been brought to the coffee shop. It was like a sign that the coffee shop was meant to be because we wanted to do the books as well.”
Scimeca wanted to offer a book swap program.
“At the time, our little post office was like a public library in a sense, but it was never open. We took all of the books from the library and brought them over to our book swap and just continued (the tradition).”
The initiative enjoyed great support from the community.
“When we put it out there that we were doing a book swap and we were taking donations, the locals brought boxes upon boxes upon boxes of books,” she said. “Ninety percent of the books are part of the book swap program – people can take a book and leave a book. Since we are a tourist town, you can take a book, and you don’t have to leave a book because you probably are not going to know that we have the book swap. We let tourists enjoy the books.”
In addition to the book swap program, Scimeca decided to offer Little Free Library.
“We are now part of the charter of the Little Free Library organization,” Scimeca said. “We have the free library that is out front. Having the Little Free Library outside helps us draw attention to the book swap inside. And we fill it up sometimes daily because the books are taken out of there so often. Free Little Library is a nonprofit organization, and you have to be a charter member. It is a worldwide project and there are groups of people that travel the world to find these Little Free Libraries. They go to the libraries and take books and take pictures. The libraries are all custom-made. Ours is a mosaic done by a local artist in Murfreesboro.”
The Little Free Library and the book swap program create a welcoming and comforting atmosphere.
“We tried to put a little bit of a friend vibe and a little bit of home vibe, and that’s what people feel when they come here,” Scimeca said. “Visitors say they love it because they feel comfortable and they can just sit down and hang with us, and that’s exactly what we want them to do. We want them to come to Bell Buckle and enjoy where they are at. We love listening to their stories. We love asking them where they are from. It’s always interesting to hear what brought them to Bell Buckle.”
Bell Buckle Coffee Shop and Book Swap is located at 2 Railroad Square in Bell Buckle. For more information, visit www.bellbucklecoffeeshop.com or call 931-813-3333.