Saturday, June 24, 2017

Nine Stories Booksellers - Pittsburgh, PA


Nine Stories Booksellers, Pittsburgh, PA
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Readers, this is the kind of indie that when I walk in the front door I just want to jump up and down and scream.  This indie is a celebration.  Beat the drum, blow your horn, and strike up the band.  I am here to tell you, do not believe the occasional articles about the demise of independent bookstores.  I have seen for myself across the country, there are more openings than closings and there is an enthusiasm at the new stores with their owners.  Nine Stories is the perfect example of this.  Only opened for 8 months now, they are showing positive business growth and doing much better than hanging on for dear life.  This is all thanks to the husband and wife ownership of John and Allyson and their story of perseverance to get to this point.

Before Nine Stories opened, it began as a pop-up with used books being sold from John and Allyson's VW.  After two years of this they took the plunge and opened Nine Stories in the upper Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh.  Their location is well-positioned in an area that is poised to show new business growth.  Now they work from the comfortableness of a brick and mortar offering new and used books.  They offer store credit for used books and are very particular about what they take due to their smaller space.  I thought their used book selection was excellent and very well curated.  They also offer some sidelines like locally made candles, t-shirts of out-of-print books, and totes to name a few.  In 8 short months they've already started a store book club and are continually working to expand their events schedule.  They have a weekly story time for children that more people need to take advantage of.  Bring your child to the story time and then visit Caffè D'amore, connected to the bookstore on the inside and an excellent partnership.  I especially like that the store already offers a customer incentive program.  I think every independent bookstore should have some kind of incentive program for its regular customers.

I had a wonderful time meeting John and talking to him about the store, the business, and all kinds of books.  You need to visit Nine Stories and meet this guy.  He has the kind of youthful enthusiasm you're going to see more of in the new independent bookstores.  Check this one out and you'll see what I'm talking about.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Nix, Nathan Johnson.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Emily, Alone, Stewart O'Nan.  Dead Wake, Erik Larson.


If you need coffee while you browse for books you're set.  You can visit Caffè D'amore right next door and connected on the inside. 

Another exterior view.

Yes, time for summer reading and time to pay a visit to an independent bookstore!


View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

Attractive table display of recent releases just inside the store.  

Just to the left of the front entrance you'll find a great place to sit and try out a book.  


I love the staff picks display on the wall to the left of the entrance. 

The store has a few sidelines including these candles.  

The store is continuing to engage in events.  Check this board in the store.  

Shinola journals and notebooks, American made in Detroit.  

Shirts and totes with a literary theme.  

You won't find this on Amazon.  

Two great places to sample a book.  

Looking into the Caffè D'amore from the bookstore.  They both have separate exterior entrances and they are also connected on the inside.  A great partnership.  


A portion of the children's items.  

With John on the right, one of the fine co-owners at Nine Stories.  Thanks for a great visit.  


Friday, June 16, 2017

Classic Lines Books & More - Pittsburgh, PA

Classic Lines Books & More, Pittsburgh, PA
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Duchess on duty at Classic Lines.  
Classic Lines is located on a very busy street of retail businesses in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.  It is conveniently next door to the Commonplace Coffee Co., a great fit.  I'm assuming that this neighborhood got its name a few centuries ago when local citizens noticed an abundance of squirrels.  Unfortunately, on my visit I saw no signs of squirrels.   But I did see tons of books in a great little indie.  And I also met Duchess, one of the booksellers and just the dog to protect Classic Lines in case the squirrel overlords retake the neighborhood.

This indie has been around for almost three years and happily things are going very well.  They started out offering used books and it went so well that they shifted their focus and now offer almost exclusively new books.  The bookstore is a one-level space of medium size and this space was formerly a women's dress shop.  The fitting rooms of the dress shop are now little nooks of unique sales rooms.  The store also offers a few sidelines including greeting cards, journals, reading glasses, and jigsaw puzzles to name a few.  But, as Mary Sue, one of the staffers told me, the books are the thing here and they are going very well.

The store is involved with a variety of events but one of the best things is that they are the bookstore that provides the books for the city's lecture series, a great stroke of success for any bookstore.  What more could this store want in terms of success?  How about Duchess the bookstore dog?  If nothing else, you have to come here and meet Duchess.  Prepare to be charmed.  

I had a great time meeting Duchess and her owner, Mary Sue.  Mary Sue told me lots about the store and the area and I came away with a lot of optimism about the future for Classic Lines.  Dan, the owner, was not here on the day of my visit but he and his staff have done a super job.  Everything is quite well arranged and displayed.  They have a good core of regulars but also many out-of-towners as well.  I will tell you that if you drive here, parking can be challenging in this area.  But don't give up, your patience will be rewarded when you see this great place.

If you don't see any squirrels in this neighborhood, pay a visit to Duchess at Classic Lines.  You can thank her personally and check out the books.  I felt perfectly comfortable and safe from squirrel marauders at this terrific Pittsburgh indie.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Nix, Nathan Hill.   


An extremely rare photograph of two renowned celebrities.  Duchess on the left and earnest readers of this blog will recognize the celebrity on the right.  Yes, that's my mom.  This is how you may be welcomed to the store.  

This is a great front window display, difficult to see though due to the glare.  

The mantra of every indie.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

A nice wall display to the right of the front entrance.  


Another great display to the left of the front entrance.  

Two comfy chairs to try out a book.  

If you're in Pittsburgh, look for something about the Pirates.  Or Penguins.  Or Steelers.  

Some of the authors coming to Pittsburgh.  

These items are located in a room that used to be a fitting room in a former life of the store.  


A very unique way to display their reading glasses.  

Due to the popularity of the store and the high sales, Duchess needs to take frequent breaks from bookselling and squirrel guarding.  

A partial view of the children's section.  

View looking from the back of the store toward the front entrance.  


With Mary Sue on the right, one of the fine booksellers at Classic Lines.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Penguin Bookshop - Sewickley, PA



Penguin Bookshop, Sewlickley, PA
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Regular readers know that many of my recent visits have been to newer bookstores, a great thing to see.  But Penguin Books in Sewlickley, PA is at the other end of the spectrum.  In terms of longevity, it has to be in a select group since it has been in business since 1929.  I'm amazed at all the challenges that they must have overcome to make it this far.  And the wonderful thing here is not only the longevity but the quality.  This is the first indie I've visited in Pennsylvania and it has set a high bar for all the other PA indies to come.  

Penguin Books is located in the quaint downtown of Sewickley on a very busy street surrounded by businesses on both sides of the street, a highly visible location.  Although the business has been around since 1929, it is in its fourth location.  Susan H., the owner, moved it here in 2014, the same year she bought the business.  I think it's also impressive that Susan is only the 5th ownership since 1929, a remarkable accomplishment.  The Sewickley community is approximately 12,000, small for an independent bookstore town but it is surrounded by several burroughs and is considered a suburb of Pittsburgh.

The one-level store is in a long, narrow space, offering all new books.  They also have a variety of sidelines including magazines, reading glasses, and a line of Papyrus greeting cards to name just a few.  The organization is excellent and the shelf headings are very attractive.  Obviously, being here for this length of time they are deep in the community.  They have a partnership with some of the local schools for book orders and events.  They also host well-attended story times in the store's children's section.  The store has frequent author events and the flexibility to host them off-site as well as in the store.  

As with all my visits though, the people I meet are the best.  I didn't get to meet Susan but had a great time meeting and talking to Mary F., the store manager.  When Susan purchased the store, Mary encouraged her that she needed to learn the customers' names who patronize the store.  This is an indie hallmark and such a great way to cultivate business.  Kudos Mary and Susan.

Sewickley seems to have a lot of character and charm.  Not surprising that an independent bookstore has been giving it that added sparkle since 1929 and playing an important part in that character and charm.  Check out the sparkle at this gem.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  This Boy's Life, Tobias Wolff.  I loved this book.  Author's memoir of growing up in the 1950s with a single mother, abusive step-father, and lots of moving around.  A great story.  Recommended.  

CURRENTLY READING:  The Nix, Nathan Hill.  

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Miss Moon, Wise Words From A Dog Governess, Janet Hill.  And gifted from Mary, City Of Secrets, Stewart O' Nan.  Elegance, Kathleen Tessaro.  A Column Of Fire, Ken Follett.  Thanks Mary!  


One of the attractive window displays.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  Scrupulous readers may recognize the illusive celebrity sprinting into the store.  Yes, that's my mom.  

Check out the very active events schedule near the front entrance.  

View looking to the left of the front entrance.  

A great staff recommendations display.  

Notice the poster-size book covers around the store and you'll see some of the authors who have been here for events.  

Display of recent releases.  

Another fine display of the indie bestsellers.  Apologies for the blur.  

A few of the magazines available.  

Some very hip reading glasses guarded by the penguins.  

A very nice selection of greeting cards.  

There are many penguins displayed throughout the store and many of them have a story.  This group (flock? colony?) dates from the 1940s.  

A few of the items of local interest.  

View at the rear of the store looking into the children's section and the story time area.  

You'll also find staff picks in the children's section.  

A very creative children's corner and more penguins!

A horrible picture of a wonderful overview looking from the back toward the front entrance.  Again, apologies for the blur.  

An assortment of journals and notebooks.  

Always ask any independent bookstore about gift cards, a fantastic gift idea.  

With Mary, Penguin's fine store manager.  Thanks for a great visit.