By John A. Nau
Do you enjoy a great book? How many of us recall searching through a bookstore with rack after rack of colorful novels? A long time ago our cities were filled with independent book sellers. These book stores were a part of the community. Sadly, most such places have faded into the dust of history. In their stead we have the endless results of Google, the extreme pricing of Barnes and Noble, the careless displays of Books A Million, the behemoth of Amazon, and we have the proverbial cloud of Kindle.
Luckily, I live in Pittsburgh and here we still have a few gems left to find. One such diamond of a store can be found in the semi-legendary community of Dormont. Rickert & Beagle Books, a woman owned bookstore located at 3233 West Liberty Avenue in Dormont, PA 15216 stands as a monument of resistance against the status quo. Given how close I live to the store I go there once a week to see what new stock they have. I’ve taken the time to speak to the owner Chris Rickert and she graciously allowed me to interview her.
The place might not jump out at you from the street, but you can be sure it’s there right next to Cain’s Saloon and if you enjoy books then you need to stop by. Historically, Rickert & Beagle evolved into existence from the famous South Side store of Eljay’s Books. Eljay’s had been built up by the previous owners, Louise Richardson and Jason Frank Orteo. The store achieved legendary status along Carson street, but time progresses and the two owners moved the store to Dormont.Eventually these two owners wanted to retire or move on to new things in their lives and so they sold to Chris Rickert. Chris, having wisdom brought in a nationally known author, Peter Beagle. This move provided her business with a bit of star appeal. The location provides a level of warmth you cannot find with the national chains. She has posters adorning the walls, in the mystery section she has an outline of a dead body, and she has a rocket ship next to the Sci-Fi section. There are mugs printed by her father for sale, and hand woven animals for sale she made next to the front door. There are a numerous racks of old and new books where incredible treasures can be found. Where does she get the books? She told me the people bring them in to sell. If you have books hogging up space she will likely buy them and she pays a lot more than Half Price would.
In the mood to see a new author then ask Chris or check out the web site and see when a new star will have a book signing. She says she loves these kinds of events. Are you a writer yourself? A group of aspiring authors who call themselves, “Write or Die”, meet twice a month and they help each other. A group of crafter’s meet as well. What are they? From her explanation, they are anyone who has a craft and want to share their joy with others. They come to her location once a month.
The National Chains can’t offer this. It’s only possible with a small store like Chris’s. Also, I wanted to let all of you know that if you have $10 you can buy 10 mass market paperbacks from her store plus tax of course. You can’t beat this. I’ve never heard of anything even close. Lastly, if you are a collector of rare books then come check her special case of magic books. She had a signed Asimov mystery novel for sale in this case the day of the interview. Imagine, an Asimov Mystery! Who knows what amazing find someone brought into the store to sell today? Go find out.
So if you love books and you miss the way it used to be, or if you want to see how it should be done then go to Rickert & Beagle Books. They “are perfectly strange and strangely perfect” I have a feeling this bookstore will be here for a long time to come.