The interior of Pocket Books provides a cozy atmosphere, with a deep blue back wall and books comfortably standing on shelves. PHOTO COURTESY OF POCKET BOOKS
Pocket Books, an “eclectic feminist bookstore,” opened earlier this year in Lancaster city and is quickly becoming a staple in the community. Owned by three women, Austin Carter, Jess Callahan, and Julie Ross, Pocket Books is located at Wheatland and West End Ave. Lancaster is known for its support of small businesses, so they found it strange that a new bookstore was not already here, only used bookstores.
“We get to be the ones? That’s amazing!” Ross says.
As you walk up to the store you will find a wrap around porch featuring several rocking chairs that you will want to revisit when digging into your next favorite novel that you are about to purchase inside.
“The first time I walked in here, it felt like they had taken my book wishlist and purchased all of it to show me,” says frequent customer Melissa Farr.
Pocket Books carries a carefully curated selection of both fiction and nonfiction from a wide array of authors.
On the importance of supporting independent bookstores, Ross says “There’s so much consolidation in huge corporations that we lose sight of the voices and the variety that we miss out on. It is important to have a diversity of stories, and to make sure that different backgrounds and perspectives are being represented in the stories that we consume. That really does inform our worldviews and the type of people we are.”
Carter, Callahan, and Ross are intentional about highlighting authors that have been traditionally underrepresented in publishing and they are also careful about only supporting authors they can truly stand behind. “We don’t want people to come into our building and feel unsafe. There are certainly authors that could make you feel unsafe and we choose not to carry and support them.”
This is not to say they skimp on their horror section; Carter, an avid horror reader herself, avoids the all-too-common trope predicated on the violence against women and other forms of trauma.
“That’s not the kind of horror we carry,” Ross says.
While Carter primarily curates the horror section, Callahan adores historical romance. She is passionate about finding “authors that remind readers that queerness isn’t something that just happened recently. Playing with gender and sexuality has happened forever and it may have looked different in regency era England than it does today, but we can still tell those stories and do it in a way that is fun, and not a way that’s just like- here’s a bunch of trauma to think about.”
Carter, Callahan, and Ross are always eager to help people find a new book to love. They love introducing customers to authors they may not have heard of before and they especially enjoy when customers return to the store and tell them how they did. Customers can also purchase personalized and themed subscription boxes one time, monthly, or quarterly. They began with Swoony Boxes, focusing on the romance genre, and with autumn approaching they now offer Spooky Boxes. Customers may request any other genre as well. Each box is $55 and contains more than $60 worth of merchandise, mostly books, of course, but also stickers and other little goodies.
Subscriptions are really important, especially to new businesses, because it helps them to know there is a demand they can consistently count on.
“People say they need the convenience of Amazon but you know, Pocket books will order something for you and it will be there within two to three days, and they’ll text you and you can show up to get it. They are really trying to do everything right and I think they are succeeding and that’s so rare,” Cohen says.
Customers can make purchases at Pocketbooksshop.com to pick up in-store or have them shipped directly. They also offer free delivery within Lancaster city. Readers will also receive 15% off pre-orders and books in their first week of publication. Those first week sales are extremely important to authors, especially those traditionally underrepresented, to show there is an appetite for their work.
Pocket Books is also providing opportunities for the community to help support its teachers. They hosted a back-to-school night where teachers could come and make a wishlist for their classrooms. They then put tags on those books which customers can purchase and donate.
“We just have really nice customers! It’s really fun to see people want to help teachers out and this has been a really nice way to do it.” Callahan says.
All students and educators also receive 10% off their purchases anytime.
Many customers are drawn to the bookstore for more than just books.
“I found them so welcoming and so excited and so committed to being a part of the community,” local author Jamie Beth Cohen said, whose books can be found for sale at the store.
In addition to a monthly book club, Pocket Books hosts a Sip & Stitch event on the second Tuesday of every month. It has nothing to do with books, except that all craft and hobby books are on sale those nights. The store is open for people to come work on their crafts together and make new friends. On First Fridays, they open the store for a party that includes tarot card readings by local artist Gillian Pearl, whose prints are also for sale in the store.
“It’s great to see that this community and surrounding communities have this place as a resource. It’s the kind of thing that can help change lives,” says customer Jim Groff.
Whether you are an avid bookworm or a casual reader, it is worthwhile to visit Pocket Books. These three friends are sure to brighten your day and make you feel welcome. Swing by to support local business, local authors, and local artists for an enjoyable way to strengthen the community. Oh, and you can bring your dog!