Sandusky Book Bar expands with outdoor seating

What's happening: Winter can be tough for businesses in the wintertime, but the Sandusky Book Bar made it through its December opening and is now gearing up for the summer in a most summer-like fashion. Owner Janie Ahner has added a patio for visitors to her used bookstore and bar located inside the old Sandusky YMCA building.

To accomplish that goal, Ahner received a $19,500 matching grant from the Shores & Islands Ohio Destination Development Grant fund.

“The space that I’m in used to be the daycare and nursery for the YMCA, so there’s a door leading out to what used to be a playground area,” Ahner says. “I thought why not turn that into a patio because we have the space and there aren’t a lot of large patios in Sandusky.

Courtesy of Janie AhnerSandusky Book Bar is located at 2101 W. Perkins Ave., Sandusky.“So far, we’ve poured some concrete and got fencing up,” she continues. “At this point, it’s just furnishing the space and getting it up to code for what the city needs from me. That’s where the grant money went. It’s a matching grant, so I had to come up with the rest, but that’s not hard when you are pouring concrete and putting up a fence.”

The goal is to have the patio open by the middle of the month, but no later than the end of May.

The layout: The new patio covers about 1,700 square feet of space on the side of the facility. The patio should be able to seat between 40 and 50 patrons with furnishing that includes a couch, comfortable chairs and small table and chair sets.

“It will be similar to furnishing on the interior with some comfortable couch-type seating,” Ahner says. “There will also beside dining-type seating and some comfortable chairs. Kind of a mix-match of different things.”

The space also will be used to host special events, private gatherings and live music throughout the season.

“Right now, it’s really an extension of seating and creating that outdoor area that a lot of people want, especially when they are coming to a tourist town like ours,” Ahner says. “I’ve got a lot of big plans for this. I think this summer, the focus will really be on what kind of seating works and how much capacity of seating we can have out there with live music.”

It’s the same approach Ahner has taken to the entire enterprise since its opening.

“I was a little skeptical about opening in the middle of the winter because that is our slow season, but I thought it was good to iron out everything and make sure we were in a good spot before we got to summer,” she explains. “Honestly, we did better than I anticipated over the winter.”

The full schedule of special events helped with that success, along with partnering with other local small businesses.

Courtesy of Janie AhnerThe new outdoor space will be used to host special events, private gatherings and live music throughout the season.“We are pulling in other small businesses that have their own loyal customer bases, so we are kind of cross-introducing customer bases,” Ahner says. “All of our advertising has been kept to social media and the work we’re doing with other folks we have partnered with. Even without advertising, the work we’ve been doing has been going really well.”

Bar vs. books: Having a full liquor license, which was a key part of the vision behind the Sandusky Book Bar, has been a huge draw. However, sales of used books have been robust.

“We are constantly rotating through books, which is really nice,” Ahner says. “It’s a used book store and most of our books are donations, so we’re able to keep the books really, really cheap, which I think people really like. We are constantly getting new donations, so we are able to keep the shelves packed, no matter how many books we go through.”

While cocktails will likely always remain the biggest draw, the Sandusky Book Bar opens at 8 a.m. seven days a week and does a strong business in coffee.

“We work with Rising Star Coffee Roasters of Cleveland,” Ahner says. “It is really popular, but I think part of that is because we come up with different specials every month and we have a lot of flavors so folks can come in and get something a little different than what they are used to.

“Plus, the coffee is just good. I put in a lot of work trying to find good beans, and I think that makes a difference.”

How to get involved: The Sandusky Book Bar is located at 2101 W. Perkins Ave. and is open from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sundays.

A complete list of special events is available at and for more information, email at [email protected] or by calling 419 285-6543.