Paperback Exchange – Lancaster, Ohio

Some of my favorite bookstore explorations have begun quite by accident, when I’ve been driving along a downtown street and happen upon a bookshop that I wasn’t expecting. Such was the case with Paperback Exchange, which I discovered while en route from Columbus to Athens, Ohio, and happened to pass through the small town of Lancaster. A large, vintage metal sign reading “BOOKS” appeared on a quiet street corner, luring me inside.

“Isn’t it fantastic?” said shop owner Leanne McClellan when I mentioned the sign. “It came from an indie store in Durham, North Carolina. My son was in school there, and every time we drove by, I’d whine about wanting a sign like that. When they went out of business, I called and worked out a deal for it. It’s a great spot on the corner here.”

McClellan’s shop is no stranger to the town of Lancaster, having operated in one variation or another since 1971. McClellan has owned it since 2001 and has made it more a traditional indie shop.

“It was quite different when I bought it,” she says with a laugh. “It had a reputation for being that store that only had romances.”

Now, Paperback Exchange is well stocked and neatly laid out with thousands of books – both hardcover and paperback – covering a multitude of genres, along with a variety of gift items such as greeting cards and candles. Paperbacks typically sell for half the publisher’s price, up to $6.00, while hardcovers are typically $4.99. McClellan offers store credit for books, holding true to the “exchange” name. Themed sales, such as a popular “bag sale” that allows customers to stuff a tote bag full of books for $20, as well as participation in Lancaster’s multiple downtown events and festivals, keeps customer flow steady. 

And, while McClellan is a warm and welcoming presence herself, customers will also be greeted by the shop’s unofficial mascots, two bookstore cats named Webster and Dickens. In addition to being regular fixtures in the store, the two friendly felines are popular social media influencers, popping up frequently on the shop’s Facebook page, and even have their own line of postcards. Just be careful not to let them slip out the front door!

Webster and Dickens

Paperback Exchange is located at 201 West Main Street, Lancaster, Ohio. The store is open Monday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., staying open until 6:30 on Wednesdays. Closed Sunday.

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