by James Rada, Jr. photography by Bill Ryan
Is it a bookstore, coffee shop, or café? Does it even matter? When you walk into the Reader’s Café on Broadway in Hanover, you know you’re in someplace different.
The Reader’s Café is the brainchild of Derf Maitland, who opened the store in 1996 with his wife.
“Coffee shops were taking off then, and Starbucks was taking over the world,” Maitland said. “Small chain shops were opening, and bookstores were creating coffee shops in their environments. Books and coffee seemed like a nice complement to each other.”
He chose to house his store in an old 19th-century church, which still imbues the store with some of its former character. However, bookshelves now line the walls and balcony with tables and chairs in front of them.
Customers can come in and order a sandwich, salad, soup, or bagel, and then settle down to read a book with their lunch.
“All of our foods are freshly made at the store,” Maitland said.
Besides a variety of coffees, the Reader’s Café offers teas, hot chocolate, spritzers, smoothies, and soft drinks.
While lunch is the store’s busiest time, they will sometimes host live music acts, open mic nights, and other evening events. The store even has a piano and usually a guitar if you want to demonstrate your musical chops. If you’re a poet who wants to read, you can also come in for that. The evening events aren’t running now, but they will be restarting in the future. The best place to keep up to date with what’s happening and when at the store is to check out The Reader’s Café Facebook page.
“People like the feel of a small indie store, and I like being able to meet people and talk to them,” Maitland said.
The trick is catching him at the store. He is also an English teacher at Delone Catholic High School.
“It’s what I went to school for,” he said. “I was headed in that direction when I graduated, but then I got diverted after I talked to other teachers.”
He makes time for both the store and school, though, because he loves both. In the Reader’s Café, he has created a destination shop in downtown Hanover.
“People come here because they can’t get this anywhere else,” Maitland said. “Other places have to manufacture their ambiance, but in our store, it’s a natural part of what we are.”
The Reader’s Cafe www.thereaderscafe.net • 717/630-2524 • 125 Broadway, Hanover, PA 17325
- The Reader’s Café offers a broad range of books from a large used book selection to current releases.
- The store makes more from books than coffee, but Maitland adds that books cost more.
- The tarragon chicken sandwich with walnuts and red grapes is the store’s most popular sandwich.
- You can park on the street, or there is municipal parking behind the store.
- Reader’s Café has free wi-fi.
- Live events at the store have included interpretive dance, poetry readings, and a marriage proposal.
- If you are riding a bike to get around downtown, there’s a nearby bike rack where you can leave your bike and come into the store.
- Maitland has an M.A. in English literature with an emphasis on analysis and theoretical approaches with a concentration in Shakespeare from Temple University.