Celebrating its 20th anniversary this month, Book Trader Cafe has become a New Haven institution with its wide-ranging selection of books and affordable and ambitious menu. Owner David Duda opened the business on a once-desolate block near the Yale campus in 1998 and now presides over a bustling literary and culinary center at 1140 Chapel St.
Q. How did Book Trader Cafe come to be?
A. I had moved to New Haven from Philadelphia with something like this in mind. I worked at Atticus and Book Haven for a number of years and realized this was a good city for something like Book Trader Cafe.
Q. What was this stretch of Chapel Street like at that time?
A. New Haven has come a long way in those 20 years. The space we are in was available for something like four years before we took it. The whole block was kind of deserted but I found out that the Yale Art School was going to move into the former Jewish Community Center (1156 Chapel St.), and I figured once that happened there would be more traffic on the block. We opened up on a Tuesday with no announcement or grand opening and the place was packed by 2 in the afternoon. There was much more demand for a place like this than we imagined.
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