Kennett Bookhouse owners John and Stefanie Lynn love connecting great books with people who will read and love them. Over the past few years, the Kennett Bookhouse has become a community hub for book lovers.
“Kennett Square is a great environment for books and readers,” Stefanie says. “The programs and events at the Kennett Library are amazing, and we have these beautiful Pop Up Lending Libraries throughout town as well as the Kennett Square Resale Book Shoppe across the street. We enjoy finding ways to complement everything that’s already going on and help promote literacy and encourage readers.”
Iconic Shop Seeks—and Finds—
After working in the corporate world for 20 years, Stefanie realized that the long hours and high stress levels were no longer sustainable for her. “John and I started talking about the future, and retirement, and where we want to be,” she says. “We love Kennett Square, where we’ve lived for 15 years, and we knew we wanted to be part of the community.” The idea of owning a small business, where they could share their interests and skills, appealed to them. But they weren’t sure exactly what that would look like.
Several months after the beloved and erudite bookseller Tom Macaluso passed away, John walked up to the shop to look for some books and learned that the family wanted to sell the business. “It was perfect—exactly what we’d envisioned for ourselves without knowing it. At that moment we fell in love with the idea,” Stefanie says with a smile. “It was one of those ‘you just know it when you know it’ moments.”
After buying the shop last April, the Lynns kept it open for a couple of months to get a feel for the business. “We were immediately overwhelmed,” Stefanie says. “It was just too difficult to stay open, get to know the inventory, and only be able to ‘think’ about the changes we wanted to make.” So they made the hard decision to shut down for a few months while they carried out renovations.
A Space Reimagined
Sloping floors, uneven doorways, and hidden nooks are all part of the building’s unique charm—they’re also intriguing clues about its past inhabitants. “It was a little bit of a leap of faith that it would come together,” Stefanie says. “We didn’t want to change its character or ‘modernize’ it. But we did want it to be a little more open and inviting. We worked with great contractors and, piece by piece, let the space dictate what it would become.”
The transformation may go down in the annals of creative placemaking in Kennett Square. Those who step into Kennett Bookhouse understand exactly what Stefanie means when she talks about letting the store become what it wanted to become. Each thoughtfully refurbished space, with its own aesthetic and personality, is a result of the Lynns’ organic approach to the process of renovating and recreating the storied rooms of Macaluso’s.
Anne Ashbrook Doerfler had the right idea when she decided to try out every chair in the shop. With a coatrack, complimentary coffee and tea, comfortable seating, and even a beautifully renovated bathroom, it’s the kind of place that welcomes people to find the perfect spot and settle in for a spell. Bookselling isn’t easy in the age of Amazon, but Kennett Bookhouse offers the quintessential and time-honored bookshop experience that bookworms everywhere crave. “We want people to come in, get a coffee, browse, find a cozy seat and feel at home in this refuge from the world outside. If you’re tired and frustrated, come in to the calm,” Stefanie says.
We want people to come in, get a coffee, browse, find a cozy seat and feel at home in this refuge from the world outside.
Two Storeys of Stories
The Lynns also spent a lot of time thinking about what books they would carry. “Tom created an incredible treasure trove for collectors,” Stefanie says. “Our vision was to take what he built and open it up to a wider range of book lovers as well as collectors.” The selection is curated by subject in a way that’s designed to be engaging and accessible for all. “We want people to come in and be inspired, learn something new, pick up a book that sparks their imagination.” Wandering through both floors, browsers can explore everything from new releases to history and graphic novels.
The design of the store cultivates a kind of visual tranquility and counters that feeling of being overwhelmed that excess piles of books can create. There’s also space on the shelves to expand these collections. “We want to have room to grow and to respond to our customers’ interests,” Stefanie says, “and we’re continually responding to customer feedback, which shapes what we carry. We want the store to grow and evolve with the town itself.”
While Stefanie loves historical fiction in particular, she reads widely and loves chatting with customers and hearing their recommendations too. John always has stacks of books he’s reading, she says, and is a huge Dickens fan.
We want the store to grow and evolve with the town itself.
“We love watching books go off to have their next life outside the store,” Stefanie says.
Go to Kennett Bookhouse for store hours and online shopping and follow them @kennettbookhouse
Historic Kennett Square is always sharing new stories. Come back next month to meet a new merchant.