Central PA Bookstore Road Trip!

Posted By: Elliott batTzedek Community,

1. Midtown Scholar Bookstore, 1302 North Third Street
Harrisburg, PA 17102

Midtown Scholar is a long-standing neighborhood institution. They began as an entirely used store inside a space built as a movie palace and later used a department store. All those beautiful architectural details remain. They have expanded into the buildings on either side, one now a small cafe and children's books area, and one a specialty store for rare and antiquarian books and maps. New books are a large and growing part of their business, and they're a regional draw for touring authors, as their store can seat up to 300, including the 2nd floor balconies. I had a great long talk with store manager Alex Brubaker about a bookstore crawl they are developing with all the stores in the county/area, which they're calling "The 717  Crawl" after their area code.

The grand central space
large mural by a local artist

yours truly by a
stunning feature


2. Bound Books, 21 S. Beaver St.

York, PA 17401

Next stop, Bound Books in York, PA, which is just about to turn 1! The store is in a downtown which is bouncing back after the hard decades of post-industry, and has foot traffic from local restaurants and boutiques. They are a bookstore/cafe/plant shop combined. Co-owner Sarah and I talked about the slow process of learning your customer's tastes, upcoming projects like building out their website, and the joy of sidelines. Two beautiful features you'll see below - they way they adapted their HUGE windows by building in seating, and their just lovely kid's area with birches painted on the walls, a tent, and campfire made of soft, stuffed parts. They will also be part of the 717 Book Crawl!

Tea/Coffee Shop

Main bookstore section

huge windows became seating
Sarah painted this herself!

3. Pocket Books Bookshop, 903 Wheatland Ave 

Lancaster, PA 17603 

Pocket Books is a new store - just about to turn 2! - on the west side of Lancaster, PA.

I had a great long talk with Julie Ross about developing customer base and event audience, plus plans for the 717 Book Crawl. They just expanded to their second floor to create more space for cards and stationery, pottery, candles and other gifts from local makers, and a dedicated event space/classroom.

New Stationery Room

New event space
Bookseller Julie Ross

4. Aaron's Books, 35 E. Main St

Lititz, PA 17543

Community (and NAIBA) staple Aaron's Books is 19 years old now. This is their second location in Lititz, and they've taken full advantage of their building (probably built in the mid-1700s) by pulling carpet up to show the white oak floors. They are part of life of their community, advocating for LGBTQ+ residents, fighting book bans, hosting literary festivals, and being the home bookstore for authors like Jonathan Stutzman and A. C. Wise.

The reclaimed floor, inviting and glowing
Co-owner Todd Droke-Dickinson
A quilt made from Aaron's LitFest tshirts

5. Looker Books, 228 East Lincoln Highway

Coatesville, PA 19320-3408 

Like a lot of new store owners, Dana Looker started her store doing pop-ups, then opened a micro-store in an Incubator Space. Like so many other once-industrial cities, Coatesville is rebuilding a downtown, and relying on small and locally-owned businesses to draw foot traffic back to once-bustling then long-empty blocks. Dana has been steadily building her customer base, and now has feelers out for a store space of her own to move into.

Looker Book's window front
Owner Dana Looker