Hermitage Bookstore Leana’s Expanding with New Site in Austintown

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – A business that got its start at a Youngstown flea market a decade ago will open its first Mahoning County storefront this summer. 

Leana’s Books and More, which already has stores in Hermitage, Pa., and at the Grove City Premium Outlets in Grove City, Pa., recently signed a lease for the Kirk Road space formerly occupied by Austintown Bounce. 

“It’s going to be our largest store yet,” said Leana Hillard, who owns Leana’s Books with her husband, Vince. The Hillards, who live in West Middlesex, are both real estate agents with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Preferred Realty in Hermitage. 

The 10,000-square-foot Austintown space will offer far more space than at the Hillards’ existing stores. The Hermitage store in the Shenango Valley Mall is 3,500-square-foot, while the store in the Grove City Outlets is 2,000 square feet.

Leana’s Books and More offers bestsellers, new releases and popular books. The business started when, after being laid off from her job as a medical sales representative in 2011, Leana Hillard decided to open a small bookstore for children at Four Seasons Flea Market on Youngstown’s east side. She would set up at the flea market twice a week, starting out outside before eventually moving inside the building there. 

In March 2012, she opened her first brick-and-mortar location, taking over the space vacated by the defunct Borders bookstore chain in the Hermitage mall. Last year, they opened a second store concept at Grove City, Bargain Book Stuff, which sells books at 70% off publishers’ prices. 

Customers buy “a little bit of everything” but during election years interest in political books “goes sky high,” Leana Hillard said. 

“One thing that started happening here in Mercer County is some of the teachers started their own book clubs for younger students,” she said. In some cases, teachers are able to secure funding from their schools to buy multiple copies of the selected title for the students.  

The most popular categories overall are children’s, young adult and fiction, she said. Cookbooks and coffee table books are more popular around the holidays. Even with the rise of e-readers, people are going “back to the basics” and gravitating again to physical books, she said. “Even the kids really like books,” she said.  

The Hillards selected the Kirk Road site for the new store because of population density, they said. The Austintown store will be easily accessible to the nearby population centers of Boardman and Canfield.  

“It’s in a community and there’s a lot of population,” Leana Hillard said. “All communities need to have book stores.” The Hermitage store did well its first few years, then business started to decline as more stores in the mall closed. 

The couple plans to hire up to eight new employees for the Austintown store, Vince Hillard said. They have nine employees at their existing locations.  

The opening follows a year of increased overall sales in the publishing industry but a more challenging time for traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores. Printed book sales totaled 750.89 million units in 2020, up 8.2% from the year before, according to the New York-based NPD Group, a data analytics and consulting firm.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, which closed many nonessential businesses such as local bookstores, many of those sales were conducted online. 

“With the COVID, we had to close everything down for a couple months,” Leana Hillard said. People having to order books online “took some business way, but we’re coming back.” 

Local customers are returning to the Hermitage story, she said. More people are wanting to go out but some places are “not quite opening up,” so they are traveling to places like the Grove City Outlets, driving traffic to both stores there.   

The Hillards recently signed the lease for the Austintown space and are working on getting it prepared to begin moving materials into the store in June. Vince Hillard said. They are working toward an Aug. 1 opening. 

The new location will be a shared concept store, Leana Hillard said. The front half of the building will be set up as a traditional Leana’s Books, with Bargain Book Stuff in a separated area in the back of the store.

“It is going to be awesome,” she said. 

“We think it’ll be a good concept for us,” Vince Hillard said. 

Pictured: Leana’s Books and More owners Leana and Vince Hillard are expanding their company into Austintown this summer, taking over the space once occupied by Austintown Bounce.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.