When longtime friends and co-owners Jen Gailote and Michele Kupchella Adams opened Classic Elements in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, they wanted to bring the town an experience that feels like family – a comfortable space with good coffee, unique gifts, carefully curated books, and friendly service. When I stopped into the hybrid bookstore, café, and gift shop on my Pennsylvania bookstore crawl, that’s exactly what I found.
The idea for the shop came about in 2018 after Jen and Michele began noticing a resurgence in Johnstown’s downtown district. “We said to each other, ‘How can we become a part of this?’” says Jen. “We both had fulltime, regular jobs, but I said, ‘You know, I’ve always wanted to own a bookshop.’ And Michele brought up the gift shop and the coffee. So, we thought, why not open a hybrid space and put all those things together?”
They began researching the viability of the idea that fall, secured the space in early 2019, and then set out visiting other indie bookshops and gift shops in cities like New York, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C., to learn the tools of the trade.
“I just started reaching out to people, because I didn’t know how to run a bookshop,” admits Jen. “I have an accounting degree, and my business partner has a business background, but we didn’t know anything about retail or running a shop.”
It didn’t take long, though, to find a footing in the bookshop business, including learning about publishing, ordering, and selling. The shop had its official opening in the fall of 2019 and now Classic Elements boasts roughly six tall shelves full of specially picked books, including fiction, non-fiction, young adult, and children’s, with plans to expand.
And while there is already a lot to see inside the shop, there’s plenty of room to do just that.
Upon entering the welcoming storefront, you’ll find a vast collection of unique gift items, ranging from locally made jewelry, apparel, pottery, candles, and more. Stroll further into the shop for a relatively small (for now), but carefully curated selection of book titles. Once you’ve picked out a book, have a seat enjoy it with fresh beverage. The café offers a variety of coffees, teas, lemonade, and baked goods.
And even that isn’t all that’s inside Classic Elements. There’s an art gallery showcasing local works and a rentable event space as well. With the pandemic hopefully easing up, the owners of Classic Elements are looking forward to continued growth in Johnstown.
“It’s been a quite a ride,” says Jen. “It’s been so much fun, and we love it.”
Stop by Classic Elements. You’re sure to love it, too.
Classic Elements is located at 345 Main Street, Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Open Monday through Saturday.