New South Side Bookstore Aims To Become A ‘Destination’ With Vegan Café & Writing Workshops

Jun 26, 2017

An independent bookstore chain in Pittsburgh is opening its third location on the South Side this week.

Amazing Books owner Eric Ackland still has quite a few bookshelves to fill. The 4,600-square-foot space on East Carson Street is about five times larger than his Downtown and Squirrel Hill locations.

“Most people assume a third store is evidence of great success,” he said. “In our case, thank God we’re seeking it out, but we need to thrive and we need a location to grow into.”

He said it’s a leap of faith to open a physical bookstore these days. Ackland sells some specialty books online and said sales through Amazon supplement, and don’t cannibalize, in-store sales.

But he said he’s learned that just selling books and records is not enough.

The former Schwartz's Market, where Ackland's store is opening, has seen a few changes in recent years. After 84 years as an independent grocer, the store reopened in 2013 as Schwartz' Living Market, a kind of holistic hub featuring local vendors, and served as campaign offices for presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein during the 2016 election. 

That doesn't trouble Ackland, though. He said he plans to use the large space to offer additional amenities that Pittsburgh’s other independent bookstores don’t. He’s hoping to make it a destination for shoppers by including a vegan café and card store. 

He’s also starting the Steel Quill Writers Workshop where aspiring novelists, poets and screenplay writers can sign up for classes.

“There’s a demand for this," he said. "This is a model that exists in other places, not just places like New York and Boston, but Minneapolis and Portland. We want it to work here."

Amazing Books and Records Emporium opens Thursday in the Schwartz Market building on East Carson Street.