Full bookcases line the walls and create rows in the middle of Amazing Books & Records. Records are stacked in boxes in the middle of the room.
Items are sorted by genre, creating guidelines for shoppers to browse for surprises. Owner Eric Ackland said 99 percent of the items inside his stores are used.
The new things? Cards by local authors and books that are either by local authors or about local topics.
The Downtown location was Amazing Books’ first and opened in 2013. The next year, Ackland added a second location in Squirrel Hill.
There’s something special about being Downtown, Ackland said, adding it’s what people think of when asking “What is Pittsburgh?”
He said he likes the architecture and the old and confusing streets near the store, which all adds to the charm. Ackland is also hopeful for an ultimate revival and that Amazing Books will be a part of it.
In the store, business has has been the same pace in the past two years.
December and July/August are the two best times of the year, Ackland said, crediting the first to the holidays. The summer popularity is a mystery, he said.
Ackland’s gift recommendations
Used books aren’t everyone’s first thought when it comes to gift giving, Ackland admitted. But he said the store offers a few options.
Employees are working on a shelf of books that look like new and are giftable, he said. Or, he said some people like buying used books as gifts, because they can give four or five books for the cost of one new hardcover book.
There’s always the option of gift certificates too, Ackland said.
He said the average price of items at Amazing Books is $6.99 to $7.99 and the Downtown store currently has locally-made Wag a Tale cards ($4.99).
For gift shopping, Ackland said the key is thinking about the person you’re buying for — What are their interests? What do they do for work? And so one.
In the record section, Ackland said to think about taste and genre. Also, take a look a the record itself. The store might have the same record priced at $7 and at $10, but the more expensive one is likely to be in better condition and less scratched, he said.
For books, he said store employees can help there too and have a pretty high success rate. But if all else fails, Ackland said poetry, philosophy and science fiction/fantasy are three of his most popular genres to sell Downtown.
Amazing Books & Records is located at 929 Liberty Ave. and is open 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to sunset (usually about 4:30 or 5 p.m.) on Fridays; and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. The store is closed on Thanksgiving and Saturdays.
The Squirrel Hill location, 2030 Murray Ave., will be open 6:30 to 10 p.m. this Saturday for Small Business Saturday.
P.S. Parking in all Pittsburgh Parking Authority garages is free on Black Friday and every Saturday until Christmas.