Couple to relaunch Former East End Book Exchange as White Whale Bookstore
Jill and Adlai Yeomans moved to Pittsburgh four years ago, seeking a new start. Veterans of the publishing industry — both worked in the editorial department at Hachette Books in New York — they attended readings and other literary events while Jill worked as a freelance writer and Adlai found employment at the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council.
They also shared a common dream, one that unexpectedly presented itself long before they thought it was feasible. On Oct. 14, they will relaunch the East End Book Exchange in Bloomfield as the White Whale Bookstore.
“We were not planning to buy or planning to start a bookstore,” Jill Yeomans says. “We had talked about doing it as a one-day-when-we-retire dream. But when Lesley (Rains, the former owner) decided to sell, it made us think about it as something that could maybe be possible.”
“We were very fortunate to have the situation present itself, but we had also been considering (owning a bookstore) for a long, long time,” Adlai Yeomans says. “We just figured we wouldn't be in the place financially to make the jump for a while.”
After talking to Rains (who now manages the new bookstore at City of Asylum's Alphabet City) in the spring, the Yeomans took ownership of the bookstore June 1. They immediately realized the impact Rains made in Bloomfield.
“The people who have been the most loyal customers were worried and concerned it would shut down,” Jill Yeomans says. “They were really happy it was continuing in some form and relieved when we told them about our plans.”
Those plans include new paint and signage and some minor remodeling. The biggest change will come by way of the store's stock. Right now, most of the books in the store are used, but the Yeomans plan to increase the amount of new releases to approximately 50 percent of the inventory.
“The city has a wealth of used bookstores, but, in terms of places that offer new books, it's really limited for a city this size,” Adlai Yeomans says. “We saw that as an area to grow, but aside from that it's where our passion lies. We love searching for emerging writers and our favorite contemporary writers who are putting out new stuff.”
But longtime customers need not worry: The store will still be a haven for used books, including fiction, poetry and nonfiction, especially anything having to do with philosophy.
“It's our most prized section, and it's heavy stuff,” Adlai Yeomans says of the philosophy books that tend to sell well. “I'm always curious, so I always ask the people who come in for philosophy what they do for a job. And most of the time it's nothing to do with philosophy.”
Under Rains, the East End Book Exchange became a hub for literary enthusiasts, hosting numerous readings and events. Jill Yeomans says that live events “are a big priority for us going forward.”
“We hope to schedule even more events and get some of the bigger authors who are coming to town,” she says.
But the Yeomans insist they also will cater to the needs of the regulars who have sustained the East End Book Exchange for the past five years. Christina Howell, executive director of the Bloomfield Development Corp., says the neighborhood is fortunate to have two independent bookstores (The Big Idea Cooperative Bookstore and Cafe on Liberty Avenue sells radical and alternative books).
“Ad and Jill are passionate about the store and excited to make their changes to the business they bought,” Howell says, “and we can't wait to support them as White Whale Bookstore.”
Rege Behe is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.