NEW BERLIN — Opening a new business in a pandemic has not been easy, but Sarah Ockershausen-Delp said the borough of New Berlin needed a small book store.

Poe’s New and Used bookstore, located at 428 Market St., New Berlin, opened in October in the building that was once was the home of The Whole Life Society and Integral Yoga Center. Inspired by the workers of Edgar Allen Poe, Delp said small towns need such stores.

“As (author) Neil Gaiman says, a town is not a town without a book store,” said Delp, who works full time for a local modular home company. “New Berlin really needed to have a place for people to come and get away from everyday life, and find a little bit of fantasy or mystery to solve. It was something the community needed.”

Delp, who recently earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing, said it was a “very inopportune time” to open during a pandemic but “it was something that needed to happen.”

“People needed something to rally behind and hope for, and see something new,” she said. “People needed that.”

The biggest roadblock has been disgruntled customers with Delp’s policy of enforcing masks in the building. She said she does not want to be the reason why someone loses a loved one.

COVID issues

The biggest roadblock has been disgruntled customers with Delp's policy of enforcing masks in the building. She said she does not want to be the reason why someone loses a loved one.

"We had a hard time with a few book orders," said Delp. "First it was people not at work at the warehouses, then the paper shortage. When they did show up, the UPS guy was so exhausted and rushed he damaged boxes and books. We didn't report him because I totally understand."

Advertising has been difficult due to lack of staffing at organizations, she said.

"It took weeks to get masks to make available for customers at the store and people certainly aren't careful with them," she said. "I have to walk around the building every day to pick up trash. Usually more than half are masks."

The theme of Poe

Delp and her husband, Jason, live just across the street from the former yoga center that closed in 2019 after 20 years in business. When the price dropped low enough last year, they purchased the building and worked through the summer to renovate it.

A professional painted the room, but the heat of the working days caused the paint to “respond strangely” by cracking. Sarah Delp said the appearance goes with the aesthetic she had in mind.

“I was going for used, lived in, been around a while,” she said.

She chose the theme of Poe because he is “an amazing, influential author.” She decorated the tall doors with the complete works of Poe and artist Diana Zollo, Delp’s niece, painted a mural of Poe and a raven on the wall.

“He’s easily recognizable to all sorts of people,” said Delp.

“He doesn’t get all the credit he deserves. People look at the tragedy, and there’s so much more there.”

Jason Delp and Sarah’s brother, Laine Ockershausen, built several tall black shelves. The shelves are filled with different genres of books from science-fiction to horror to romance to children to fantasy and comics, among others. Delp orders the newer books through discounted book websites that are leftover from other stores.

“Those are the authors and stories that have been looked over because they are not the top 10 or on best sellers list,” she said.

“It might not say Stephen King on the title but it’s a really neat horror story.”

Donated books

The used books are donated. Anything she thinks people might enjoy are put in the used book section for $1 to $2. As an LGBTQ-friendly store, Delp also seeks out under-represented authors.

The building also has space for local artists and crafters to sell their products. Delp has coffee and chocolates, soap, oil paintings, pottery, woodworking items, pen art and jewelry.

The goal is to have events such as poetry nights, literary events and fun community events. She successfully hosted a Star Wars event with Darth Vader on May 4.

The Poe’s Rainbow Grant For Young Writers is also another endeavor through the store. Delp said through donations the grant was able to send three students from Mifflinburg Area School District to Susquehanna University’s writer’s workshop this summer.

‘Fantastic job’

Former Whole Life Society board member Matt Hackenberg, of Winfield, came to Poe’s for the first time on Thursday to see the store. His children Jed, 12, and Corrie, 6, had already visited several times.

“She’s done a fantastic job with the building,” said Hackenberg. “It’s a great business for New Berlin.”

Prior to Poe’s, the center certified more than 40 teachers and held numerous wellness programs, seminars and events that were attended by thousands of people.

Tragedy struck in July 2010 when the center’s founder, Sudharman, the former Joe Fenton, 70, was discovered fatally shot in the studio which also served as his home.

Joel Snider, a former student of Sudharman from St. Louis, Mo., pleaded guilty, but mentally ill, and was sentenced in 2014 to a prison term of 30-to 60-years.

The bookstore is open 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

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