420 Beaver St, Sewickley, PA | Directions 1514340.540662 -80.181237
Modern store with old-time, friendly service – I have lived in Sewickley all of my life and there have been many retail changes in the Village over the years. When I heard that the previous owner of the Penguin Bookstore was quitting the business, I was truly sad to see the old place go. For year's, my children had visited the old window to see "O'Henry", the shop's cat. First "O'Henry" passed on and now the shop itself. I guess I wasn't really shocked, the owner had said she really hated the "business side" of the store.
When I heard that the new owners were going to tear the old house that the Penguin was in, I thought that they were going to ruin everything, find that the "Sewickley market" was not what they thought it was and then they would leave the business completely.
What replaced the old house was a three story, modern building with an elevator, sunroom and a working fireplace. A real improvement but one that lacked the old, dusty bookstore charm.
I went in on the day of the grand re-opening and found a crowded shop with plenty of locals looking around at the new place. I went back later that day and actually bought a book as a gift for a friend who was with me during that first visit. My overall feeling about the place was that it was a beautiful new building but perhaps it had lost the charm of the old store.
I went back though over the next few weeks and found that the original impression was correct in some ways but wrong in others. The store is still modern and fully up-to-date but one charming piece of the old store remained, customer service. The staff has an interest in books, is glad to answer your questions and is down-right friendly. Yes, they do not have a cat but every morning a Border Collie stops on its walk and gets a treat from the staff. Kids come in and can't wait to get upstairs to the Children's Section, which is carefully placed so that other customers are not disturbed by youthful exuberance.
As for finding hidden treasures, just ask them about a hard to find book and they will find it for you. I come in with special order searches and so far, they have come through every time. Yes, some things are not available through the Penguin but there are Rare Book Stores that provide first editions, signed copies and the like. Just look in the major city newspapers for those stores. If you are looking for something truly rare, you can also try Christies or the other major auction houses. The Penguin cannot dig those up for you but then again, neither could Borders.
Personally, I thought the days of a local bookstore were numbered but as of today, Borders is dying slowly and the Penguin just keeps doing author events, children's reading and supports the community. These extras are the type of things the old, dusty bookstore just couldn't do. Finally, the staff see you as a real person and not another face in a long line at the check-out counter.
Take the trip to Sewickley when you are looking for books, bring the kids/grandkids too.
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