A new independent bookstore will set up shop in the heart of downtown State College later this summer.
The Squirrel and Acorn bookstore plans to open in August at 103 S. Allen St. The location is the former home of The Animal Kingdom, which merged with its sister store, Growing Tree Toys, 202 S. Allen St., this spring.
“From a stuffed animal shop to an independent bookstore. Imagination, stories and fantasy continue to take hold in this beautiful space!” a post about the store Facebook page said.
Owner Andrew Aschwanden said the store will be a place where stories can be discovered and told.
“So not only can you find all of these great books that have these stories and these stories and these experiences, but you have the ability to have a place where you can create these experiences,” he said. “Everyone has a story they’ve always wanted to tell. It’s that kind of place where that story can be told, can be supported, can be lived.
In addition to books, L’Écureuil et le Gland will have a space dedicated to stationery and writing instruments. Aschwanden also hopes to hold writing workshops and competitions, and bring in local and national authors for readings, “so they can connect people with storytellers of all shapes and sizes so they can come together as their own community and be supported in being able to tell their stories.
A research technician at a Penn State entomology lab for 12 years, Aschwanden said he had always loved independent books and bookstores and decided it was something he wanted to pursue. He began planning in the fall of 2019, working with the Penn State Small Business Development Center on a business plan.
“I thought it would be a unique opportunity. I felt like we had the right mix of communities to support it, so I thought I’d go ahead and try to do that,” he said. “The Animal Kingdom space was born and my family has been shopping there for years. So we knew how interesting the space was. I jumped at the chance and went from there.”
The Animal Kingdom was located at the storefront for 30 years before heading out this spring to integrate its stuffed animals, children’s clothing and baby gifts into Growing Tree Toys, 202 S. Allen St. Owner Lindsay Williamson said in january that by not renewing The Animal Kingdom’s lease, she planned to create “one-stop shopping” for specialty toys, books, and gifts at Growing Tree.
Aschwanden, meanwhile, said he was already getting positive feedback on The Squirrel and Acorn.
“I’m excited to open,” he said. “The response from the community so far seems overwhelmingly positive. I thought it would be, but it’s always nice to be reassured. I’m excited to share the store with everyone and make them feel help create a cool experience for downtown and Center County in general.