When Eric Ackland finally picked up the keys to his new store last week, he seemed equal parts joyful and overwhelmed.
“Passover took a big chunk out of our time, and it’s been difficult to make much progress over the last month,” he said. “The place wasn’t in great shape before, but [the landlord] has really done some nice work in there.”
Still, Ackland thinks he’ll be ready to open the second location of Amazing Books — Downtown’s only used book store — at 2030 Murray Ave. in Squirrel Hill on June 1. When he does, the Philadelphia native and Orthodox Jew who moved to Pittsburgh about two years ago will bring Squirrel Hill its first bookstore since Barnes & Noble shuttered its Murray Avenue location in 2009.
In addition to a wide variety of used books ranging across a plethora of topics, the new store will offer high-end literature, art, music and culture magazines, a small selection of comic books, a modest selection of Jewish books and a range of greeting cards made by a local artist.
Within a month or two of opening, said the owner, he hopes to use the store’s functional basement space to offer a series of writing classes, covering everything from screenplays and novels to creative nonfiction.
Ackland is no stranger to the Pittsburgh bookshop scene. He bought his Downtown store a little over a year ago after its first owners had moved from their original location in Garfield to a pop-up spot in Downtown. For months, he’s been searching for a suitable space for the store’s second location, and he happened to find it just a few blocks from his home.
“When I moved to Squirrel Hill, it really stunned me that there was no bookstore here,” explained Ackland. “When you’re starting a business, you don’t want to make it about your own convenience. You want to build it where people really want it and need it. I’m just very fortunate that where I wanted and where it’s convenient for me is also where people need it.”
Ackland still has work to do on the space, which formerly housed The Paper Shoppe. In addition to laying down new floors, he’s currently on the hunt for quality shelving and still trying to decide whether to buy used shelves or take a run at building his own. Last Friday, before Shabbat started, Ackland had arranged to go look at some old library shelves for sale at a convent.
“They’re pink,” he described. “I was picturing pine, not pink, but the photos look pretty nice. There might be something to be the only bookstore in the city with pink bookshelves.”
Above all, Ackland is very excited at the prospect of waking up on certain mornings and being able to walk to work.
“It’ll be nice to be in the community. I’ve had a ton of support thus far,” Ackland said, adding that between the area’s several coffee shops, two tea cafes, Games Unlimited, Jerry’s Records and the brand-new Squirrel Hill farmers’ market scheduled to start in June, he thinks the neighborhood is in great shape to support a new bookstore.
(Matthew Wein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)