On August 10, retired businesswoman Elizabeth Young will open a new, general-interest bookstore in Yardley, Pa., called Commonplace Reader. The roughly 1,300-square-foot store will sell books for all ages and across all genres, with an emphasis on mysteries, women's literature and family reading.
The store, which resides in a building originally constructed in 1840 as a home, will feature adult fiction and nonfiction, as well as YA books, on the first floor, while the second floor will have two rooms dedicated to children's books, a "tiny" room for home and garden books and a "mini gift gallery" showing the work of local artists.
Young said she wants her inventory to be a "reflection of the community's interests," and while there will be a focus on books by and about women, the inventory won't be "exclusive of men." Another major focus will be on family reading, which includes not only children's literacy but also working to get families reading together.
With regard to the "mini gift gallery," Young said the Yardley area is home to a "pretty rich local artist community," and she hopes to showcase some of their talents. She intends to focus mainly on gifts and greeting cards at first, with a lighter selection of artwork. The reason she's proceeding a "little cautiously in that area," Young explained, is that a local art gallery is going out of business, which could represent an opportunity--or be a warning.
At opening, Young expects to carry around 4,000 titles, with plans to grow the inventory to around 5,000. In terms of staff, she'll have a handful of part-timers, and she has no plans for any sort of food or drink component. There's a Wawa convenience store across the street, a coffee shop three doors down and plenty of other food and drink options nearby.
For events, Young said her space, which has an unusual configuration, can fit around 15 people very comfortably, but too many more and seating will be tricky. She's already hosted a few book club sessions and plans to keep that going. Much of her programming will focus on supporting family reading time, which will include things like story time sessions for children as well as workshops to help parents and adults read aloud. She's working with local schools to see what kinds of programming they can support, and she added that in Yardley and the surrounding area, there are a lot of people already interested in supporting story hours, many of them retired teachers.
Her grand opening will be held on Saturday, September 14, in conjunction with a local community event series called Second Saturday. There will be food, drinks and an open house, along with visits from some local dignitaries.
Young has wanted to be involved with a bookstore for over 30 years, ever since her children were little, but, for a variety of reasons, it was never the right time. After retiring from her corporate job in September 2018, however, Young realized that now was the time. While doing a little bit of traveling and recuperating, she was already sussing out options for a bookstore in her community, which she described as a town of about 8,000 people across the Delaware River from Trenton, N.J.
In recent years, Yardley's downtown has had "a bit of a makeover," with an area that was made up predominantly of small businesses focused on professional services becoming a mix of those services along with new bakeries, restaurants, microbreweries and retailers. "The changing business landscape is something people are very positive about," Young remarked.
On Saturday, July 13, Young held a pop-up shop on her building's porch that functioned as a preview of the store. Her community's reaction came as a wonderful surprise. "I have never been thanked for doing something so many times," Young recalled. "It was shocking to me. I worked in corporate America for decades--nobody thanks you for doing your job, ever." --Alex Mutter