Sandusky Book Bar: the area's new coffee bar is an open book

What is it: Sandusky Book Bar is the new place in Sandusky to pick up a book to read in a comfortable spot while sipping a cup of coffee. Soon, it will also be a place to read that book with a glass of wine or cocktail as well.

Located in the front of the old Sandusky YMCA at 2101 W. Perkins Ave., the new shop opened Nov. 1 and immediately attracted a steady stream of well-wishers and curious book lovers. 

“My brothers and I bought the building in 2019,” says owner Janie Ahner. “They run a commercial doors and windows business (Ahner Commercial Doors & Windows) out of about half of the building, but we had this whole other area of the building and they asked if I wanted to do anything with it. Last year, I was sitting around reading a book with a glass of wine and I thought I would love to start a bookstore.”

The expansive bar is the first thing a visitor sees when walking through the main entrance to the building, with bookshelves to the immediate left and a couch with a coffee table and easy chairs in between.

"I live in Cleveland half the week and I live near a bookstore that has a really small wine bar in it,” Ahner says. “I was thinking what a good idea that was, but they don’t market it very well. I got to thinking that if I market this right, I could have the whole crowd of women who like to read and have a glass of wine.”

The interior of Sandusky Book Bar provides a cozy area for people to read and enjoy a beverage.Coming right up: Ahner is still working on obtaining her liquor licenses for the location, but will have it in place by Nov. 20. Then she will be able to serve beer, wine and cocktails, as well as coffee.

She is planning a grand opening around the 20th, although she is still working out the details.

“I’m still thinking about it,” Ahner says. “I’m thinking about making it an event. My goal is to let people know I have alcohol. That’s really the main objective.”

An important part of the vision for the store is keeping things local. Ahner utilized local contractors and businesses throughout the renovation process and plans to keep it up with the products she offers.

For instance, the coffee is from the Cleveland roaster Rising Star, and the shop offers snacks from the Sandusky-area bakery, Bake Erie. The store does not have a kitchen, but is working on providing space for local food trucks and offering grab-and-go foods.

“Everyone I worked with to do the renovation, and our suppliers in general, are all local businesses,” she says. “That was my goal to stay as local as possible.”

What about books: The Sandusky Book Bar already has hundreds of titles on its shelves, ranging from cookbooks to political science, true crime to non-fiction, biographies to romance and fiction, as well as a section for children and young adults.

“I didn’t go into this thinking books would be my money-maker at all,” she says. “I knew it was going to be more towards the alcohol things, even more than coffee. The books are more of a side hobby. I had a pretty big library at my home that I didn’t need it any longer, so why not try a bookstore and see how that works out. I’ve met a lot of people who feel the same, and they’ve been donating their books to me.”

While her current selection of books for sale features titles that either Ahner owned or were donated, she is working on a way to purchase used books. She is also in touch with independent local authors to stock their books on her shelves.

“Right now, it’s all donations,” she says. “I hope I can buy them in the future, or some sort of trade for store credit, but I’m not there quite yet.”

Hours and more: The Sandusky Book Bar is currently open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays. That will change to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays, until the store is able to serve alcohol on Sundays.

Contact Sandusky Book Bar at (419) 285-6543 or visit the store's website, Facebook or Instagram

“I got more than a 1,000 people follow my Facebook page (on the first day the store opened) just through word-of-mouth,” Ahner says. “It’s been about a year that I’ve been working on this. It’s a full bar, bookstore and coffee shop. I figured I would mixed the three things I like the most.”