A Novel Idea: Books on Passyunk

Filed under: Featured News,South Philadelphia,South Philly,Subject Categories |
Owners Alexander Schneider and Christina Rosso-Schneider, of A Novel Idea on Passyunk Avenue.

By Eldon Graham

East Passyunk, the vibrant South Philadelphia community, just got another new store that will surely have people flocking to it. It’s called A Novel Idea, a bookstore owned and operated by husband and wife Alexander Schneider and Christina Rosso-Schneider, that had its soft opening early this month.

The idea to open a bookstore was one that the newlyweds say came about in an unconventional way. A year ago, her husband suggested it as joke. It took off from there.

Rosso-Schneider gave details of the couple’s background: She is an English teacher, writer and reader, while her husband is a graphic designer. Having those two professions melded perfectly in their eyes into the creation of a one-of-a-kind bookstore.

“We started thinking more about it” said Rosso-Schneider, “and realized it could be something that our neighborhood needs – and also give us an opportunity to put our passions together.”

They rented the space at 1726 E. Passyunk Ave., which last housed Knack Philadelphia, in late August, and have worked tirelessly to manifest their dream. As residents of the popular South Philadelphia neighborhood, the couple knew just where they wanted to set up shop. The newlyweds found the idea of putting a bookstore in the neighborhood, which long has lacked one, an incentive to strike while the iron was hot.

“There was a need for a bookstore here. The closest bookstore is about a mile and a half away in the Italian Market. We have a lot of restaurants here and some great retail but a lot of people have said that’s the one thing we have always wanted, a bookstore, so we just thought it was the perfect location,” Rosso-Schneider explained.

In recent years, Passyunk Avenue has turned itself into one of the city’s top destinations. The amenities available mean that residents almost never have to leave to find something they desire; the addition of A Novel Idea just makes the neighborhood that much more complete.

Rosso-Schneider reported, “On our soft opening date on Dec. 1, we had a line all day. So it was really exciting that the community and our friends and family have really rallied behind us.”

Previously, the shop was open only on Saturdays and Sundays, but the couple said it will now be open Wednesday through Sunday for the holidays.

Rosso-Schneider believes that their bookstore can thrive even in an era of tablets and Amazon, and  where reading has almost taken a backseat to other forms of entertainment.

“I think the key to being successful today, especially with Amazon and how easily you can get things online, is to not only carry great titles and get a variety of titles, but also to stand out from other bookstores – we have a dedicated section of local authors and small presses. We are also going to host a variety of events which we hope will continue to bring people into the shop,” Rosso-Schneider explained.

The future is bright for A Novel Idea as several organizations and businesses – even some in their own backyard – are lining up to collaborate with the bookstore.

“We have several that are interested in working with us. The one that we have currently have something in the works with is Philly Typewriter and we’re talking about getting a public typewriter in the shop. We have also been talking to Manatawny Still Works about maybe bringing some drinks for our grand opening in January and we’re hoping to partner with as many of the other local businesses as possible,” Rosso-Schneider said.

The vision for the bookstore is to have the shop reflect the nature of the community and the type of books that residents from there – and across the city – would want to read. Inside the shop are bestsellers, literary fiction, sci-fi and mystery. You’ll also find books on sociology and religion, the occult and feminism.

In a nod to expanding demographics, shoppers will also find no shortage of young adults’ and kids’ books when strolling through the selections in search of literary sustenance. Civic boosters will also love the fact that A Novel Idea stocks books about local events and Philadelphia icons to read more about.

The grand opening will be Jan. 4, which will kick off the shop officially opening six days a week, Tuesdays through Sundays.

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