Bookseller Q&A: Matt Sartwell (Kitchen Arts & Letters)
Earlier this year, I called Matt to learn more about his transition to books seller, the history of Kitchen Arts + Letters, and the books that excite him.
This is the first in a series of conversations with some of our favorite cookbook shops across the country by Salt + Spine producer Clea Wurster. Today’s conversation is with Matt Sartwell, Managing Partner at Kitchen Arts & Letters, the Manhattan food & drink bookstore that, when it opened in 1983, counted Julia Child, James Beard, and Laurie Colwin as early customers. The store was founded by the late Nach Waxman and Matt joined the operation in 1991. If you’re not in Manhattan, you can find them here.
Clea Wurster, Salt + Spine Producer: I know you worked in editing for a long time. I’m wondering what prompted you to leave that career and start working in a bookshop.
Matt Sartwell, Kitchen Arts & Letters: I found that as an editor, most of my time was spent doing things like begging for marketing budgets and negotiating within the company for resources for the books that I was excited about. It really wasn’t about the editing process. So I left my job as an editor with Penguin and I started doing freelance editorial work, which I liked, but I also realized pretty quickly that I needed to get out of the house from time to time because otherwise the world just got really small … fast. And a friend of mine worked for Maron Waxman, who was at that time, Nach Waxman’s wife and they had founded the store. So I started coming in a couple of days a week, just as a clerk. And I found myself back in the process that I thought would be what made being an editor exciting—which was to connect people to interesting books. So gradually I spent more and more time in the store and less and less time working as a freelance editor.
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