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Julie Ross, Austin Carter, and Jess Callahan are the dreamers behind Lancaster’s new independent bookstore, Pocket Books.
Both Jess and Austin previously had successful careers in academia while Julie worked in tech, but as the pandemic made waves of impact, the trio realized they didn’t want to wait any longer to build the life of their dreams. By fusing their love of literature and a desire to use books as a form of activism, the idea for Pocket Books began to take shape.
They had one lingering question: Where does Pocket Books belong? The three were living in Columbus, Ohio when Austin, originally from Lititz, proposed they take a weekend trip to Lancaster City. Within 15 minutes of arriving, they had a gut feeling Lancaster was the place where their dreams would come to life. In spring 2022, the trio moved to Lancaster, officially opening Pocket Books in April.
On the corner of Wheatland and West End Avenue, Pocket Books is an idyllic neighborhood bookshop. The building’s wrap-around porch is decorated with plants and wicker furniture, and inside, floor-to-ceiling shelves are full of vibrant book covers. Special touches like handwritten staff recommendations and a kids’ corner with picture books and stuffed animals make the space feel warm and inviting. Pocket Books is a place where everyone is welcome—even pups.
“This is a space for [everyone, even] folks who aren’t necessarily at home in other mainstream spots,” Julie said. Each book elevates the voices of people who have previously been underrepresented in the publishing world—including women, nonbinary people, transgender people, authors of color, and first-time authors.
Between the three of them, Jess, Julie, and Austin read hundreds of books a year, carefully choosing which books make it to their shelves. Above all, they believe reading should be fun.
“We are decidedly uninterested in the idea that reading universally, or reading books by women, people of color, trans people, queer people, is the equivalent of eating your vegetables,” Austin explained.
“It’s really our dream to spend all day in this bookstore,” Jess added.
Jess, Julie, and Austin have seen firsthand how reading catalyzes connections and builds community, and they have big ideas for bringing the people of Lancaster together in the shop and celebrating their newfound community’s love of literature.
Visit Pocket Books Shop at 903 Wheatland Avenue.