Community Stories

Bookstore Owner Immerses Herself and Her Business in the Community

A school teacher that lived across the street from her taught Leanne McClellan to read at a young age. She was hooked from the start.

“I read pretty much anything I can get my hands on,” she said. “I read everything. Dictionaries… everything.”

Now, she helps children that are excited to read.

“If a child comes in here and tells me that they love to read, of course, I’m going to do everything I can to help them find the books that they’re looking for. There’s a book out there that’ll spark everybody, but it’s just a matter of finding it.”

Leanne McClellan, owner of Paperback Exchange

McClellan has owned and operated Paperback Exchange, a used bookstore in downtown Lancaster since 2002. She owns the used bookstore to contribute to two things: the spirit of reading for fun and the Lancaster community.

In an age of algorithms and targeted advertisements, McClellan gives recommendations based on developed relationships after learning people’s reading histories over months and years.

When books are donated to her store, she often has a specific customer in mind

“You get to where a book will come in and I’ll think, ‘oh, so and so would really like this,’ and I’ll set it back until so and so comes in,” McClellan said. “It’s really exciting when you match their reading pattern and they come back in and tell me ‘yeah, I really loved this book.’”

Paperback Exchange has a pretty large collection of books, but people would have a wider selection online, at a major chain bookstore, or even most libraries.

But a young girl led her mom into the store to pass some time on a Wednesday afternoon.

“We were going to go to the library, but I was like ‘no, I wanna go here,’” the girl said.

The girl’s grandmother used to own a store down the block, and she always enjoyed visiting McClellan and the store’s two cats, Dickens and Webster.

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Yes, McClellan gives personalized recommendations. Yes, she can think of a specific book in her store off the top of her head and find it in her organized shelves, a failure of some small bookstores, she says. Yes, Dickens and Webster draw a casual passersby into the store.

But she contributes much of her success to Lancaster as a fair-sized community.

“I guess location is everything,” McClellan said, “and I think this is the right community for it.”

McClellan is the right business owner for this community, too.

Wearing a dark grey O’Huid’s hooded sweatshirt, she isn’t just promoting the new Gaelic Pub that opened less than two years ago across the street. She helped get the family business started.

“She probably has at least eight hours of drilling nail holes in these floors. She got so good she could do it with one swing.”

Stephen Hood, whose family owns O’Huids restaurant

“I love to play with power tools,” McClellan said. “So I was over there doing construction work after work here.”

McClellan was given the Downtown Spirit Award by Destination Downtown Lancaster in 2017.

McClellan helps business owners out because they’ve also supported her. She won the Downtown Spirit Award 10 years after the community helped her rebuild from a 2007 fire at an old location.

“The support they gave me then was a big part of my success down the road,” she said.

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