Bristol Books & Bindery Opens in Bristol, Pa.

Bristol Books & Bindery, which offers new and used titles as well as bookbinding services, opened earlier this month at 129 Mill Street in Bristol, Pa. The Bucks County Courier Times reported that if owner Elaine Powers's "story was a novel, the pandemic would be a key character. In 2020, deep in the Covid pandemic, she, her husband and their two children went for a car ride. Mill Street had recently turned around a decades-long downslide with 'Raising the Bar,' a community-led movement to revive the street, bring boutique shops, restaurants, eclectic bars and give Bristol the ambience of popular street enclaves in Brooklyn that attract younger people."

When the Powers family noticed a for sale sign on the building that now houses her bookshop, they decided to buy it. "It's a risk my family took," she recalled. "Around that time, everybody was in panic. And it was like, well, if the world's ending, it's now or never.... You walk out my front door, and there's the river. It was a no-brainer."

A bookstore was not her first idea for the space, but when she introduced herself to one of the owners of Calm Waters, a nearby coffee shop, he said, "We need more places on the street to keep people here. Not in-and-out stores, where people come and then leave us. Places that have people stay and walk the street, see what we have here." 

"Oh, like a bookstore," she replied, describing it as a light bulb moment, though she did not know the bookstore business and friends told her an indie bookshop was a losing proposition. "Everyone says, 'You're not gonna make any money.' And I get it, from a business point of view." 

Future plans were on hold until, on a trip to the Poconos, she discovered Main Avenue Books and Bindery in Hawley and another light bulb moment occurred. "If I can incorporate similar facets of the same business model, without losing focus on books, it should be good," she recalled. 

Powers subsequently studied under master bookbinder Ramon Townsend and found she had a knack for the craft. She now teaches classes with Townsend and will offer bookbinding lessons at her shop, along with writing workshops, author appearances, and other events. And she continues to learn "what people in the market want to read."

After the store's recent opening, Powers posted on Instagram: "I want to thank everyone for coming--through all the bad weather, no less!! I cannot believe the support I've received from Bristol. I've known it is an amazing town, which is why I've chosen this location, but I didn't know just how amazing. I can't wait to really get going. It's going to be great!!!"

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