Let’s Play Books! Opens in Pennsylvania

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Author Bob McLeod with store owner Kirsten Hess and her daughter, Madeleine Hess.

On February 1, Let’s Play Books!, a new children’s bookstore in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, was packed with customers who came for a grand opening celebration featuring day-long specials, giveaways, and raffles, as well as a storytime hosted by a naturalist from the Wildlands Conservancy and a reading and signing by DC/Marvel artist Bob McLeod.

“The grand opening was marvelous, better than I could have expected,” said owner Kirsten Hess. “The community has been very welcoming.”

Hess, a former manager at Madison, Connecticut’s R.J. Julia, decided to open the store after relocating to Emmaus when her husband accepted a position in the area.

“Working at R.J. Julia Booksellers confirmed my suspicion that there really is no better place to work in the world than a bookstore,” said Hess. “I also learned how very much goes into running a successful bookstore, and I do not think I have any illusions about the state of our industry.”

After studying the size, growth, and industry of the town, Hess determined there was a market for a bookstore. The town supports a year-round outdoor farmer’s market, has a thriving arts community, and is home to Rodale Press.

“I feel like it is my purpose to help people become readers,” said Hess. “It is never too late! I was in my thirties when I realized how fulfilling a book could be. Reading was always difficult for me, and I think I can make a difference not only in the lives of children, but also their parents.”

The 900-square-foot, one-room bookstore, set on the town’s green, specializes in infant through young adult books, parenting, and family and special needs titles. It also offers a selection of toys and games. Let’s Play will host a variety of community activities, events, and programs, including an authors-to-schools program, a used book buy-back program, teacher nights, and family memberships. The store also plans to participate in this year’s World Book Night celebration, as well as Find Waldo Local 2014.

“I have many ideas for the store,” Hess said. “However, I am committed to growing at a pace that allows me to be here for years to come.”