Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Book and Art Lovers Find New Spaces in Southern Pittsburgh

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Book and Art Lovers Find New Spaces in Southern Pittsburgh

Article excerpt

It was a banner night for arts and letters in the city south of the Monongahela on Thursday with the opening of a bookstore on the South Side and a gallery in Allentown.

In an age of online shopping, e-books and iTunes, if one were picking growth industries on which to build a future, bank a career and support a family, one could hardly select a riskier gambit that used books and vinyl records.

And yet, Eric Ackland has managed to successfully capitalize on a niche analog market in a digital age. The Philadelphia native has opened the third - and largest - location of his Amazing Books & Records on the South Side, in the longtime former home of Schwarz Market on East Carson Street.

Several hundred people passed through the doors Thursday evening, browsing paperbacks and flipping through stacks of vintage LPs, from The Beatles to Leonard Cohen and Nirvana, while local band Chillent grooved in the store's rear.

"Over the past five or 10 years every time a bookstore opens or closes, it makes news in the way other retail stores don't," he said. "People are excited about it for so many reasons. Every week we have people discover us and tell us, 'We're grateful that you're here.' There's a certain cache to it that doesn't exist with other businesses."

The business has grown steadily, and the new South Side location will easily be the largest. The 4,600-square-foot space was a grocery store from 1938 until it closed in 2011. Since then building owner Elisa Beck had used the space to champion environmental and nutrition causes as the Schwarz Living Market. Amazing Books & Records will continue that mission in part. It will house a vegan cafe, Serendipity, which Mr. Ackland hopes to open in a month. It will also be a home for the Steel Quill Writers Workshop.

Mr. Ackland quite literally followed his heart to Pittsburgh five years ago from New York City after meeting online the woman who would become his wife. He bought Awesome Books on Liberty Avenue, Downtown, changed the name and added records, and opened a second location on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill three years ago.

"It's love and faith on the homefront and love and faith in the business," he said. …

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