A space where locals can gather to turn pages, sip nonalcoholic beverages, and converse is set to open this spring in Palmyra.

Brittany Haynes, 29, spoke with LebTown about Book Bar, the business located at 50 N. Railroad St., Suite 1, inspired by her lifelong love of all things literary.

Haynes was raised in Missouri and moved to Ohio to attend Bowling Green State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish and a master’s degree in Spanish language and literature. Around five years ago, she moved to Hershey, near Palmyra Borough, to accept a job post-grad at a publishing company in the area.

Haynes came up with the idea for the book-and-beverage-based business several years ago. She researched, saved money, and left her job at the publishing company last September to finally pursue it.

Book Bar is expected to open in late March or early April this year. It will be open on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Haynes’ first business venture arrives in a post-COVID-19 world where people are looking for a third place outside of the living place and the workplace, as well as amid the sober curious movement.

“There’s a lot of places people can go if they want an alcoholic beverage. But it’s nice to have those places with options that have nonalcoholic beverages for those maybe looking to avoid it,” Haynes said.

“For me, it was a health thing. For other people, they may just be looking to avoid it intentionally for other reasons. So, I just think it’s a nice gathering space to be able to combine two of my favorite things … beverages and books.”

Haynes selected Book Bar’s name as “something straightforward and simple, something that will last through time and not necessarily be seen as a fad,” which simultaneously captured the business’s twist on the traditional bar experience.

Haynes is trying to be intentional about shopping locally as a business when possible. She hired Tori Parks, who worked at the publishing company at the same time as her and also since left the company, to create the bookstore’s logo.

“Creating Book Bar’s logo was great! I had a lot of fun working with Brittany and bringing our ideas together to create the final product,” Parks told LebTown in a written statement. “We were going for a bit of a dark academia vibe while still making it something that could appeal to many, which I think was achieved nicely!”

The Book Bar logo. (Provided photo)

Haynes also hired local companies to replace the awning over Book Bar’s section of the building and install the Book Bar sign out front.

“While it’s not always possible to work local on certain things that you’re searching for, as much as I can do that, I am trying to,” Haynes said. “And then, obviously, I hope, in turn, the community will support my business as well.”

Haynes is renting the building. Once a building permit gets approved by Palmyra Borough, the renovation process will start with the building of a bar area, an ADA-accessible bathroom, and a storage area, followed by cosmetic upgrades and the styling of the space.

“Dark academia, kind of that more moody library vibe, is definitely what we’re going for,” Haynes said when asked what sort of atmosphere Book Bar hopes to achieve.

The bookstore shares the building with Oldies Laundromat (adjacent) and The Nerd Place (behind), which opened just a few months ago.

Patrons of the businesses can park on the street or in a parking lot “to the right of the building when you’re facing it from the street,” Haynes said. The parking lot is pretty flat, with a sidewalk leading to the building.

“We are looking into options to make the entrance to our space more accessible because currently, it has (three) steps to the entrance,” Haynes responded when asked about the accessibility of the space.

One idea she had to make the space more accessible for the time being was having customers who are unable to walk the three steps into the building call ahead so that Book Bar staff members could install a temporary ramp.

“There’s going to be some seating available because I obviously want people to be able to come in, sit, and share ideas,” Haynes said. “Hopefully, we’ll have things, not just like people coming in and, you know, chatting over coffee or over books that they’ve shared. But we hope to host book clubs on a monthly basis, author readings, signings, and events of that sort.”

Haynes said they hope to also host events featuring oral, not just written, storytelling, as it’s “an important part of storytelling in general.”

Book Bar plans to sell new books primarily in the romance, fantasy, horror, mystery, thriller, and suspense genres. What is Haynes’ reasoning for selecting these specific genres? “One, they tend to sell well. But two, they’re my favorite genres.” The bookstore also plans to sell gently used books in various genres.

“And really, for the gently used [books], I am trying to be very picky and make sure that there’s a wide selection of those that look like new or in really great condition,” Haynes said. “So, even though we’re supporting the sustainability aspect of offering used books in addition to the new books, people are still getting a nice quality product when they’re coming in.”

Haynes plans to mainly sell books, gifts, and beverages, not food items, when Book Bar opens. She will source the new books from global distributors like Ingram and will source the gently used books from various sources, including donators.

Book Bar is also partnering with Libro.fm, a platform where patrons of independent bookstores can purchase audiobook subscriptions or make one-time audiobook purchases.

“It’s a very symbiotic relationship,” Haynes said of Book Bar and Libro.fm’s partnership. “We’re driving people to their platform. They’re supporting us, enabling us to be able to share audiobooks with our clients without us having to have our own platform or own service. So, that’s really great.”

Bookshop.org, which is another platform Book Bar is partnering with, allows patrons of independent bookstores to support them while placing book orders online. Customers can designate a specific independent bookstore to support with their purchase. Otherwise, their purchase goes toward a shared pot benefiting various independent bookstores.

“It’s a really nice way for smaller bookstores like me to be able to have our clients like, say, I don’t have something in stock in the store, but someone wants to order that book because Bookshop.org offers Ingram’s entire portfolio of books. They can go in if it’s on there, they can purchase it, and they can still support me, which I’ll obviously appreciate,” Haynes said.

“So that’s basically the two partnerships I have going on,” Haynes said. “Libro.fm for audiobooks; Bookshop.org for physical books that people can go in and support, you know, their local independent bookstore through.”

Haynes plans to source the in-house coffee from a local roaster and is continuing to speak with several local roasters as she prepares to make her final decision.

“On the retail side of coffee, there’s also one called Fable Grounds in Maryland that I’m working with to sell,” Haynes said. “They’re book-themed coffee bags that have different flavored coffees.”

When asked what advice she would give to aspiring business owners, Haynes said, “I can’t necessarily say one piece of advice will work for everyone. I think it kind of depends on your priorities and what you’re able to do. But I will just say that in my case, between working over the last few years to set myself up to be able to start doing this and then just taking the plunge, making sure I’m asking a ton of questions.”

Haynes recommended aspiring business owners find mentors who are succeeding in the industry they hope to enter. She named Michelle Haring from Cupboard Maker Books in Enola, as well as the owners of Heart & Soul Books in Harrisburg and Plot Twist Books in South Charleston, West Virginia, which has an Airbnb in the bookstore, as some of hers.

“It really just depends on the person. I was fortunate enough to be able to make this decision to go out and do this on my own, and I think timing was a big part of it as well,” Haynes said. “And sometimes, it’s just a little bit of luck, you know?”

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Lexi Gonzalez has worked as a reporter with LebTown since 2020. She is a Lancaster native and became acquainted with Lebanon while she earned her bachelor's degree at Lebanon Valley College.


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