Life In Berlin: Shakespeare And Sons

Jun 23, 2015

  Walls lined with books and the smell of fresh bagels and coffee set the atmosphere at Shakespeare and Sons, an English-language bookstore on Warschauerstrasse. Owner Roman Kratovichla discovered his passion for bookselling in France. After graduating from university in the late 90’s, the young man, took up a friend’s invitation to spend a summer in Paris.

“So I could use his apartment but I could also do his job which was working at Shakespeare and Company, 

A picture shows the window of the bookshop 'Shakespeare and company' specialized in English-language literature with pictures of George Whitman, the founder of the bookshop December 14, 2011 in Paris. George Whitman, the founder of this bookshop, a famed writers' refuge and English-language literary hub in the French capital, died today aged 98, the shop said.
Credit MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images

  the legendary bookstore,” Roman explains. “ I didn’t hesitate for a minute, I went and I did that and I loved it so much that I decided that I wanted to stay longer than that and I had to persuade the old man who was still the guy who started it in the 50s, to hire me and keep me on the job, which he did. So I stayed for another year."

Afterwards Roman returned to his hometown of Prague and opened his first bookstore.  He named it Shakespeare and Sons, paying tribute to his Parisian inspiration. But that was just the start. Before long, he and his wife Laurel set up shop in Berlin.

“We found a place in Prenzlauerberg, started a bookstore and then Laurel decided she needed to start the bagels, so she experimented with it. It turned out very well. I think she sort of found she is a natural baker, despite of studying physics at university.”

Shakespeare and Sons currently has two Berlin locations, though the quiet and cozy shop in Prenzlauerberg will close after the winter holidays. The couple feels the Warschauerstrasse location better suits the bookstore.

“Ideally you would get both locals who are sort of open to this idea of English books and the cafe, but you need tourists as well.” Roman says. “So this place just was so perfect because it’s very light, it’s very busy street, it has a history, which I always like. It’s been a bookstore since they built the building in the early 1960s.”

Roman pursued other academic ventures but bookselling is his passion.

“I studied philosophy, but of course that is not a job that you do. It sort of gives you a perspective. You read a lot. You can do a few things. But then being in Paris and seeing the world of the bookstore, I thought this was something that I wanted to do.”

He also actively works to bring together the diverse people that pass through his bookstore.

“There’s lots of people that want just the bagel and the coffee and they take the books sort of as a side thing.” Roman explains “ But I am going to do something about that. You have to love books. Without it, it doesn’t make much sense and if you do and you like meeting people, talking to people about books they like, and recommending what you like or what you think is right for them.”

Soon Shakespeare and Sons will host weekly literature events.