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.  


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Appletree Books - Cleveland Heights, OH

Appletree Books, Cleveland Heights, OH
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When I entered Appletree Books in Cleveland Heights, OH, I found good news all over the place.  This is a long-running bookstore since 1975.  A wonderful location in a historic stretch of Cedar Ave surrounded by other businesses.  An exciting new expansion to the store's space, only opened in the last several months.  All of these factors plus the two wonderful people I met on the day of my visit, Lynn Q., the owner, and Lorie N., one of the staffers, adds up to one very obvious outcome.  A wonderful independent bookstore that you will thoroughly enjoy.

Appletree Books is a split level floor plan and also has a small balcony area.  They offer a very nice assortment of all new books and a good variety of sidelines including greeting cards, stationery, wrapping paper, and several locally made items.  When the store expanded to the space next door, one of its goals was to offer an improved children's section.  In my opinion, they did exactly that and this is now one of the store's strengths.  The children's area is very roomy and bright and kids will love coming here.  Lynn has done a great job with the book displays throughout the store by showing many of them on antique bureaus, cabinets, and other antique pieces.  Antique lovers will enjoy seeing these pieces around the store, especially some of the children's toys.

Lynn is only the 3rd business owner since 1975.  She bought the business in 2014 but worked here 8 years prior to that.  Like other successful indies, their ties to the community and shop local movement are deep.  You'll find many locally made items like those made by the folks at Hopewell Community, a therapeutic farm for individuals with mental illness.  You'll also find works of art displayed for sale by local artists and featured on a rotating basis.  Events are frequent both in the store and off-site.  And don't think this indie is only for the local customers.  Appletree attracts many visitors who are here in association with the large medical center and many of the nearby BNBs.  Cedar Ave is very busy so if you drive here, look for the metered parking lot behind the store.

So, what are you waiting for?  If I can find this place, anybody can.  Set that GPS for 12419 Cedar Ave in Cleveland Heights and when you arrive, you'll enjoy a great time at another one of our country's remarkable independent bookstores.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Burial Rites, Hannah Kent.  Historical fiction based on the true story of the last person executed in Iceland, Agnes Magnúsdottir, in the early 1800s.  Narrative describes a bleak existence in this country and the family who is required to house the condemned killer because there are no jails.  Outstanding book.  Recommended.  

CURRENTLY READING:  This Boy's Life, Tobias Wolff.


Another exterior view.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  Looking toward the back, you can see the balcony area.  

A wonderful table display right inside the front door.  

View looking to the left from the front entrance.  

The staff picks displayed on one of the antique pieces you'll find throughout the store.  

A timely display for graduation season.  

A few of the greeting cards available.  

A nice long wall of books in the main room.  

The stairway to the balcony featuring the spines of books.  

Head upstairs...

...but on your way, don't miss the displays along the wall.  

A partial view of the balcony with a nice seating area.  

More than just books in the balcony.  

Just a few of the items of local interest.  

View looking from the balcony over the main floor and toward the front entrance.  


A variety of sidelines are located near the back of the main room.  

This is my kind of bargain!

I think just about any independent bookstore will do this!

View looking into the adjacent room and a portion of the children's area.  

This antique toy truck makes a great book display.  

Portions of the walls are papered with literary themed material from books and other sources.  Very cool and much better to see in person!  


View looking the length of the adjacent room.  


I encourage you to check out the featured art work in the store by local artists, displayed on a rotating basis.  


Books displayed on another wonderful antique piece.  

Regular readers of The Indie Bob Spot will understand why I took this picture!  


Locally made candles from the Hopewell Community.  

Some of the toy antiques in the store are for sale.  

With Lorie on the left and Lynn in the center.  Thanks for a great visit.