York Town Square

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Civil War authors run York bookstore, too

Jim Lewin and Pam Farrow’s York Emporium touts 250,000 books.
But they’ve added two new books for customers to read, the Civil War books: “Witness to the Civil War, First-Hand Accounts from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper” and “How to Feed an Army, Recipes and Lore from the Front Lines.”
After the former Washington, D.C., residents purchased the Emporium in January, they organized the 19,000-square-foot used book store. The West Market Street store, a former auto dealership, is now easier to browse through or to find what you’re looking for if you’re on a particular mission.
But leave some time. Its inventory is immense.
Here’s a story from the York Daily Record after Lewin and Farrow bought the store early in 2006:

Late last August as Pam Farrow and her fiancé Jim Lewin were shopping in the York Emporium bookstore, they were negotiating a spending cap. The couple had recently sold two history books for national publication, giving them a little more than usual in their budgets.
As a joke, Farrow told then-owner Gary Roby that it might be better if they bought the whole store since they had already bought so many books from him over the 15 years they had been customers.
“(Roby) popped up and said, ‘If you’re really interested, then let’s talk,'” Farrow said.
After a few months of negotiation, Farrow and Lewin took ownership of the Emporium in January.
The couple, who most recently lived and worked in Washington, D.C., had decided some time ago to relocate. But of all the places they talked about, York wasn’t even on the short list.
Still, the Emporium was one of the book-loving couple’s favorite places. Lewin said he has shopped in used bookstores all over the country and none of them compare to the emporium.
The building, at 343 W. Market St., is nearly 19,000 square feet. Lewin said the store’s current inventory is well over 250,000 books and covers a range of topics as broad as one can imagine.
There are books on York and Pennsylvania, fiction and science fiction, religion and evolution, first editions, autographed copies, hardbound and paperback, classic novels and contemporary titles just to name a few.
“Most books are under $10,” he said.
When the couple took over, one of their first objectives was to reorganize those topics into subcategories that would make for easier shopping.
While no one past or present associated with the Emporium can name every book on hand, the new category-based arrangement improves customers’ chances of finding what they are looking for.
“Part of the fun of shopping in these old bookstores is the feeling of being on a treasure hunt,” Lewin said.
But before anyone can find the treasure, they first have to find the ship, which Lewin said hasn’t always been easy, even for the neighbors who live in downtown York.
Back in the 1920s, the Emporium was an auto dealership. The main building is set back from the main sidewalk behind the old dealership’s display lot.
The lot is still used for customer parking, but because the storefront is not easily seen from the street, many walk by for years before realizing the Emporium is there.
“Despite the fact that books have been sold here for almost 15 years, locals come in all the time saying, ‘I never knew this was here,'” he said.
To help put the store on the map, Lewin said he is going to open the building up for public events such as poetry readings and lectures of local interest.
Farrow said she is sure people will be surprised by what’s available in the store above and beyond books. The Emporium also sells antiques, war memorabilia, comic books, T-shirts, vinyl records, 8-track tapes, art and other novelties.
The pair get their books a variety of ways. Some are donated while others are sold in bulk by estates or people who are moving. Occasionally they do buy books, but Lewin said it is not their goal to be a high-end seller of antique books.
“Once in a while, I’ll see a book in a lot being given to us and I’ll pull it out and encourage the owner to put it on e-Bay,” Lewin said.
That’s not to say there aren’t any exceptional books of value in the Emporium. One example that’s for sale is a first edition of Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”
“This is what I’m talking about when I speak of treasure,” Lewin said. “Even if our customers don’t find what they need, if they look around, it’s probable that they will find something they want.”