Bottom Feeder Books can match your book buddy, and it’s cheap

Click to enlarge
Bottom Feeder Books can match your book buddy, and it's cheap

CP photo: Jared Wickerham

Ryan McLennan, owner of Bottom Feeder Books

As I walk into Point Breeze’s Bottom Feeder Books, owner Ryan McLennan’s new dog, Sky, greets me. She stands more or less politely on her hind legs, very carefully resting her paws on the table. “She wants to welcome customers,” McLennan says.

After a minute of getting my attention, I lay on a bed on the floor and headed straight to sleep: a perfect bookstore dog.

It fits the shop vibe, being precise and well-arranged without losing the tactile sensitivity that makes it feel so lively. It’s remarkably open and orderly, with simple white walls and floating shelves set against dark wood and brick. Poster by Carl Theodore Dreyer Gertrude – the Danish director’s latest film about love, the miraculous and the sensual – hangs in the record. “I did it all,” McLennan told me. “I built all the shelves, all the counters.”

Bottom Feed Books opened its doors about six months ago at the end of July. Prior to that, McLennan lived and worked across the country, including Shop Soy Books, a used bookstore in Richmond, Virginia. New York times Its selection is wide. “I just learned a lot there,” he says of the experience. “A lot of students come in and see the things they read, one thing leads to another… You read interviews with all these painters and they talk about writers, you read interviews with these filmmakers and they talk about painters and poets,” he says.

After leaving Richmond, he moved to Brooklyn to paint, exhibiting in galleries in the city. Eventually, he took a job at Stumptown Coffee – a job that brought him to Portland, Oregon, which he left in 2020 for Pittsburgh. He knew right away when he got here that he wanted to open a bookstore, but it took a while. “I already had thousands of books, but I kept buying, saving money, and trying to find the right place.”

McLennan sources Bottom Feeder stock from all over: trips to Ohio, Maryland, and West Virginia, bookstore sales, and even a few unnamed locations in Pittsburgh. “Since I’m an extrovert, I’ll make house calls to look at things if they know what I’m looking for or what I’m interested in.”

He’s very interested in finding early original prints, with a heavy focus on literature (especially modernist texts, as you’ve noticed), art, and cinema.

“What I feel confident about is that I know some sort of ’80s flapper. But I find things all the time.” It stresses affordability as an important metric as well. “I price things based on what I can find sold online for, but I try to go less. I’m always looking for cheap stuff… There’s a lot of stuff on the shelves that costs $5, because I don’t want people to feel That they can’t buy something.”

“There are a lot of things that are going to be very special to the right person,” McLennan notes.

Click to enlarge
Bottom Feeder Books can match your book buddy, and it's cheap

CP photo: Jared Wickerham

Bottom feeding books

He has a point. I think about the list of books I’ve gotten into my Bottom Feeder over the past few months, and something — like looking at someone’s playlist — reveals more to me than the books themselves: P. Adams Sitney’s avant-garde thriller The Bible fantasy movie, an art book centered on pioneering feminist artist Carolee Schneemann, an old version of an early Henry James novel I’d never heard of. Later, I was thrilled when he brought out a wonderful old coffee table book about the films of Pier Paolo Pasolini, which he told me was “one of my favorite books here… I’ve never seen another.”

McLennan also began branching out hosting events with local independent publishers, such as Todd Sanders of Air and Nothingness Press and Emma Honcharski of local food publications. Dinner Bell Magazine. “I want to do more events, because it brings people into the store.”

McLennan showed me a little room in the back under construction. “I’m still working on the ceiling, I need to paint it…but this is basically gallery space.” He hopes to host art shows, as well as expand the store’s event lineup with more autographs and readings, or maybe even movie screenings.

At the end of our conversation, I remember being haunted by director Eric Rohmer’s version Six moral tales that have been shown over the past few months. McLennan lit up immediately, telling me he couldn’t believe no one had bought it yet. “It’s very hard to find,” he says, and continues pressing the counter to confirm, “And I have a cheaper price than any place I’ve seen before!”

Reader, I bought the book on my way out. After all, if the books in the Bottom Feeder are waiting for the right person to find them, why delay the inevitable once you find them?

Bottom feeding books. 415 Gettysburg Street, Point Breeze.

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