Inside Classic Lines

Squirrel Hill bibliophiles can finally ease their phantom limb symptoms, no longer reflexively turning their steps toward the long-shuttered Barnes and Noble. With the opening of Classic Lines, located at 5825 Forbes Avenue in the previous home of Capriccio Boutique, the neighborhood now boasts two independent booksellers.

Though the shop is still young enough to count its existence in days, 12, owner Dan Iddings says the response from community has been gratifying, and sales have exceeded the daily benchmarks he created.

“People still read,” he says with a laugh. “And in this neighborhood at least, they prefer to read in an analog format.”

Classic Lines is a general interest bookstore with volumes in all subject categories. The store’s more than 5,000 books are roughly 80 percent used and 20 percent new; Iddings intends to shift the ratio to be about 60 to 40 percent. When asked about Amazing Books, another independent bookstore that opened on Murray Avenue a few months ago, Iddings’ response smacks more of camaraderie than competition.

“We just need more books everywhere. If somebody comes in and asks me for something and I don’t have it, I call down there and ask them if they do.”

Jennifer, a woman who stopped into Classic Lines with her daughter before music class, says she’s excited to have two independent bookstores in the neighborhood.

“I tried to get into the Kindle, but it wasn’t the same,” she says. “I love the smell of books and you can’t smell a Kindle.” She watched her daughter peer intently at the lower shelves. “It’s important to me to surround her with books. The tactile part is important and the color, too.”

The store encourages wandering: shelves of varying height carve out browsing nooks away from the room’s main aisle. You can take up your favorite book-finding stance—arms crossed, head cocked to one side or down on one knee peering at the lowest shelf—without impeding anyone else’s forward motion. Chairs scattered throughout offer logical places to get to know your finds a little better. Despite being located steps from the Carnegie Library, there’s a thrill to buying books that’s hard to replace says Iddings.

“Like Erasmus said, ‘When I have money I buy books. If there’s any left over, I buy food.’”

Classic Lines is open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The shop also features framed artwork, ceramics, and other vintage house wares, all of which are for sale.

Margaret J Krauss

Margaret J. Krauss is a writer, radio producer, and researcher. If not biking Pittsburgh's streets or swimming its rivers, she is likely geeking out about a really good story.