Your Name: Christy Pluto (nee Rickert)
Your Age: 42
Your Pronouns: She/ Her
Your Affiliation with Rickert & Beagle Owner
How do you describe your identity? Queer, cis.
Please tell us about your very first impression of Pittsburgh: My first impression of Pittsburgh was coming over one of the bridges at night, on my way to an interview at Carnegie Mellon. I will never forget how beautiful the hills looked with all the house lights twinkling. No matter how many times I see it, it never gets old.
I offer a space for a local writer’s group to meet in, and when local authors and book-related groups have events to put on, I host those as well. Over the years we’ve also hosted concerts, cosplay events, bellydancers, and a 24 hour read-a-thon for literacy causes.
You are not the original owner of this bookstore that was formerly known as Eljay’s Used Books. Please tell us about its origin story and how you came to be the current owner and caretaker. My friends Louise and Frank owned Eljay’s and were both ready to move on to other things. They had originally opened the store because they thought it would be fun. And they enjoyed it for fifteen years, but with retirement, and kids and other things happening, it was time for them to let the store go. I was thrilled to take it over and keep the store open.
Rickert & Beagle is a used book store. You purchase used books, you sell them, you host readings and other public events. Please tell us in your own words about the many services & programs that connect your store to the community. I offer a space for a local writer’s group to meet in, and when local authors and book-related groups have events to put on, I host those as well. Over the years we’ve also hosted concerts, cosplay events, bellydancers, and a 24 hour read-a-thon for literacy causes.
Your inventory includes many LGBTQ titles that aren’t available in any e-format. How do you connect with younger readers who are simply unfamiliar with this potential treasure trove of their community history?Luckily, those young readers are very active on social media. I post to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I also try to offer extra encouragement to your people who come into the store. Especially teens looking for LGBTQ resources. I invite them to visit any time and remind them that the store is a safe space for everyone.
I have friends with attics filled with Naiad Press novels they’ve read and don’t want to part with. Naiad Press was one of the first publishing companies dedicated to lesbian literature. At its closing it was the oldest and largest lesbian/feminist publisher in the world. Would you buy these collections? And would selling them to your bookstore versus Ebay, etc contribute to the legacy of LGBTQ history? At the moment I’m only buying for store credit, but Naiad is a great example of exactly what I’m looking to take in. The benefit of donating or trading these books to me is that they will be appreciated, loved, photographed, researched and sold to people who most likely don’t shop on ebay, and want to browse a collection in person. Also, these donations and trades will suppost a queer-owned, indie bookstore. That is something the directly benefits our community (the local community and the local queer community) and will give you a warm feeling inside.
How does your model build on the legacy of local collectives? I LOVE the comparison. I think any time the community decides something is worth having around, and jumps in to help keep that thing around, we all benefit and the community is made stronger.
I have several friends who are professional organizers, often ending up with books to rehome (or sell) along with other items people decide to dispose of. Could they work with you to sell books? What would that process look like? It would entirely depend on the type of books, and the process would have to be customized to the type of books, the size of the collection and what the organizer is looking to do. I’m very flexible when working with large collections, since they are hard to transport. Anyone interested in doing something like this should contact me directly.
You are in the midst of renovations and relying on volunteers as well as customer support to push through the final phases. Please tell us what is being renovated and why? The building I rent space in is being renovated, and the (only) benefit to me is that I’m taking over a space upstairs that will be freshly renovated, and significantly less expensive than my current space. We won’t have a big front display window any more but the new space will have a fabulously cozy feel. I’m extremely excited.
And what impact does this have on your hours of operation and general availability? The only issue with the construction is the mess and the noise. The store is still accessible and open our normal hours.
You’ve also put out a call for volunteers which reminds me very much of the legacy of the Gertrude Stein Memorial Bookshop which lived in the Southside from 1984 to the mid-90’s. How does your model build on the legacy of local collectives? I LOVE the comparison. I think any time the community decides something is worth having around, and jumps in to help keep that thing around, we all benefit and the community is made stronger.
What will volunteers be asked to do? What is the time commitment you need? We are getting all the books ready to be moved, getting them away from construction areas and doing some preliminary packing now. Anyone interested in sorting and organizing books can help in those areas. I’m also looking for people who can just ring out customers, and help people find books on the shelves. I’m happy to use help whenever it’s available, there is no specific time commitment.
It is important for readers to know that while you are a queer owned bookstore, you are not just carrying queer books. Tell us about your various genres and what your are perhaps known for beyond LGBTQ content. My main focus is Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Mystery. I also carry lots of classic literature, history, art, cultural studies and a robust young readers section.
Two of my niblings (gender neutral terms for nieces and nephews) love graphic novels. What am I going to find in the way of that sort of reading materials in your shop? First, what a great term, I love it. And you’ll find both a wide range of graphic novels, and a small selection specifically for younger readers. I’m a graphic novel reader, so I try to keep the section as full as I can.
Do you have an online storefront for people who cannot physically get to your location in Dormont? I do! The best way to check us out is by visiting the site: www.rickertandbeaglebooks.com and from there you can check out recent posts to our instagram page, and find links to our online stores. Customers who want to order items they see on the instagram feed can contact us directly and we can invoice them online and ship anywhere in the world.
How can my readers help ensure your bookstore flourishes during this crunch of construction issues and beyond? if you’re reading this, come in and buy a book. (And then maybe buy one to give away) If you have the time to come in and help out, let us know. And when you’re done with your books, bring them here to donate or trade. That’s it!
Do you table at local events? I see Classic Lines( another gay owned bookstore) at PICT Theater opening nights and I go home with a new collection of essays edited by Roxane Gay. That’s more something for stores that sell new books. (And I’m thrilled to hear that Classic Lines is handling the PICT shows!!)
Thinking about Eljays (which I I used to visit) makes me nostalgic for the many bookstores I could access in the 1980s and 1990s, including many big box retail bookstores. Here on the Northside we now have City Books and the City of Asylum Bookstore, but I feel like I’ve gotten out of the habit in the interim. I tend to get most of books from the library except gifts. What am I going to find now that taps into the nostalgic experiences, but might engage me differently as a middle-aged woman? For me, it’s the book covers. Browsing used bookstores now, especially the young readers sections, as a middle aged woman myself, seeing titles I read when I was younger, with the art and fonts that are specific to a certain decade, is a really wonderful experience. For me and my mom, one of our strongest connections has always been through reading, and I love finding the exact editions of books I grew up seeing on my mother’s shelves.
if you’re reading this, come in and buy a book. (And then maybe buy one to give away) If you have the time to come in and help out, let us know. And when you’re done with your books, bring them here to donate or trade. That’s it!
Where can readers find you on social media?
on facebook: Rickert & Beagle Books
on twitter @Rickert_Beagle
on Instagram: @rickert_beaglebooks
What else would you like my readers to know? I think we’ve covered it!
Thank you, Chris.
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