After 16 years of being known in Pittsburgh as Eljay’s Used Books, a new name and ownership has swept into this quaint little place. Chris Rickert has paired up with fantasy author Peter S. Beagle of The Last Unicorn (and many other great titles) to further this store in its evolution towards the new Rickert & Beagle Books.
To celebrate the bookstore’s changeover and grand reopening in January 2014, I took a moment to conduct an interview with owner Chris Rickert. A down to earth, intelligent and well-informed owner with a lust for literature, there are few others who hold her passion for the tale. Read on to learn more about the transformation and eccentricity you can expect to embrace at Rickert & Beagle Books.
Christine M. Soltis: Tell us the steps you took that led from your beginning of working for
Eljay’s leading into your current position as owner.
Chris Rickert: When Joseph-Beth Booksellers closed a few years ago, I thought I would have to go to work in a office, which I didn’t want to do at all. My friends Frank and Louise were about to relocate Eljay’s to Dormont and asked me to help them out. Helping them pack the old store up turned into helping set up the new store, and then I started volunteering a few days a week. In March of 2012, I became part owner of the store and took full ownership on September 1st of this year when Frank and Louise retired.
CMS: Tell us how you came to partner with Peter S. Beagle.
CR: Peter has been my favorite author for decades, and I’ve worked for him and his publisher, Conlan Press for a while now. Peter has been in the store on each of his visits to Pittsburgh, and when I told him I was the sole owner he was interested in being involved more directly with the store, plus we like the way our names sound together.
CMS: As a young business owner, what is the most challenging aspect of stepping up to the plate and running the store without a partnership from the previous owners who raised the store since its inception?
CR: It’s actually not as tricky as I thought it would be. Since I was a partner in the original store I had a long time to meet regular customers, learn how Frank and Louise did everything and ask tons of questions. It was intimidating to take over the accounting and taxes, but I have learned a lot in the last two months and it’s going pretty well.
CMS: What differences do you anticipate during the changeover from Eljay’s to Rickert & Beagle? Can we expect a similar bookstore dynamic or should we anticipate a sudden change?
CR: I think that customers will notice that I like to organize sections a little differently than Frank did and I plan to increase the number of new books and local author titles we carry, but we’re still just as weird as Eljay’s ever was.
CMS: In one sentence, describe the new Rickert & Beagle. Be as wild and wacky as you want.
CR: Perfectly Strange, Strangely Perfect.
CMS: Name a bookstore that has a similar atmosphere to Rickert & Beagle. Let us set the scene for new visitors and what they can expect when they walk in.
CR: That’s tough! I hope that the store will have the same atmosphere as Peter’s books: magical, eclectic and a lot going on behind the scenes, drawing from a huge number of sources for inspiration.
CMS: What would be the theme song or songs for the new store?
CR: Probably something by The Decemberists.
CMS: Which novel and/or genre do you think would be perfect to do a book to film adaptation set on location at Rickert & Beagle?
CR: I would love to see a murder mystery set here, books make great weapons.
CMS: Tell us about some of the types of events, charitable ones, writers meetings and so forth that you have coming up or are regularly scheduled.
CR: Every other Tuesday, we host a writer’s critique group called Write or Die, we used to host a monthly crafter’s social night and as soon as my personal schedule settles down we’ll be bringing that back. On most Saturdays, we host local authors for reading and signings, and during the first weekend of January we’ll be hosting a big re-naming celebration with all our customers, Peter and some of our musically inclined friends.
CMS: Please include any additional information you want to bring out, including other items you may sell at the store or events you accept. Feel free to include contact details.
CR: We carry a jewelry and art line by Cat Mihos, who makes great things out of salvaged comic books (you can see her work at www.neverwear.net under “Kitty’s Treasures” and my own lines of monster dolls and lace and crocheted jewelry. I’m also working on bringing a few local artists’ prints into the store.
Also, we offer a few additional services to book lovers: We can order new, used and hard-to-find books for customers. Customers who place pre-orders for books before their release date get a store credit to spend in the store too. Customers can also bring their hardcover books in for use to add an archival mylar sleeve to the dust jacket.
I hope to put together a website people can shop soon, but in the meantime you can browse a large part of our collection here: http://www.amazon.com/shops/rickertandbeaglebooks Thanks Christine!
Chris contact information:
3233 West Liberty Avenue, 15216
on Twitter: @EljaysBooks
or browse our on-line store at: http://www.amazon.com/shops/eljaysbooks
Take a moment to stop by one of the best old and new bookstores in the Pittsburgh area and celebrate the grand reopening in January 2014!
If you know of any persons or events that deserve attention in our local community, feel free to message Christine M. Soltis through her Facebook page SolsticeNightSky Productions