In a famous 1984 movie comedy, a secretary named Janine tells a ghostbuster named Egon that she loves to read books. Egon turns to Janine and soberly responds, “Print is dead.”
Egon never visited Simsbury in 2020, where, by the way, he would find plenty of ghost stories. The Storyteller’s Cottage, devoted to books and literary events, proves that print is alive and well and living on Route 10.
“It’s different from anything else nearby — and because of the immersive nature of all events, it’s different from anything else I’ve ever heard of,” says founder and proprietor Lisa Natcharian. “It’s the kind of place where people who love storytelling can come and not just enjoy books and tales, but actually participate in creating and reliving them. Our range of activities includes the obvious things like writing classes and author talks, but also murder-mystery nights, literary dinners and parties where kids dress up as characters from their favorite books.”
And print isn’t the only thing alive in Simsbury. In November so were the passengers from the Titanic. That’s when the Cottage hosted a literary dinner called Last Night on the Titanic, in which 20 participants came dressed as various characters, including Captain Smith and the unsinkable Molly Brown.
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Natcharian, who has worked as a teacher and a coach for parents of gifted students, says that when her three children were teenagers she often struggled to find new things to do with them when school was out. On one family vacation down South she researched places to visit and things to do beyond the normal touristy activities. She came across a membership-based establishment devoted entirely to video games, which also had a cafe and rooms to rent for private events. “Well, I don’t like video games, but I do like books,” she says. “And I know that a lot of other people like books. So I started thinking, wouldn’t it be nice to have a place where people who are story lovers could find each other?”
Debuting in October 2017, The Storyteller’s Cottage resides in a 124-year-old Victorian house on Hopmeadow Street that was once the home of Alexander Thomas Pattison, a Connecticut state senator who was born in Simsbury in 1861. The home is tailor-made for immersive literary experiences, filled as it is with antiques and the atmosphere of curiosity. Events are open to anyone for modest admission fees, and there are equally modest annual memberships that provide discounts to classes, events and merchandise.
There’s a lot to choose from. Depending on the day and the week, you may find a dinner party set in the Gatsby era, or a book-reading night that features the sights and sounds of World War II America, author signings, writing workshops for adults and children, and rentable theme rooms for weddings, birthday parties and school field trips. “For many, it’s like finding your own tribe,” Natcharian says.
Planning and creating The Storyteller’s Cottage was really just one big experiment, she says. Since there had been nothing else like it, and no business model on which to base the initial idea, success was anything but guaranteed. “I thought to myself, maybe I’ll end up being all alone here with my books. But it struck a chord. And that’s the part about it that’s the most fun for me — watching people walk in, find new friends and discover that there are so many ways to truly enjoy the world of books and stories with other people.”
The Storyteller’s Cottage
750 Hopmeadow St., Simsbury
Hours: Tue.-Wed. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thu. 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 1-9 p.m., Sun. 1-6 p.m. Closed Mon.