At most sandwich eateries, customers choose between choices of white, wheat or rye breads.

At Bill's Sandwich Shop on Wilmington Road, there's now also a choice of fairytale, novel or comics after Cousins' Books opened inside the restaurant on Oct. 23.

"We’re both book lovers and avid readers," said Christopher Kardambikis, son of shop owner Spiros. "It’s always been a dream of mine to open a bookshop. Once my mom, Patty, retired as a school administrator, the timing worked out where we could both tackle a new project. We're looking forward to being able to hold community events, including book clubs and readings with visiting authors, either in person or online, when we are able."

Dr. Patty Kardambikis, who's married to Spiros, is the co-founder of Cousins' Books with her son. She recently retired as a public school administrator and is now teaching online graduate courses as an adjunct professor at Westminster College. Christopher, meanwhile, describes himself as a bibliophile, artist and educator. He has been binding books by hand for nearly two decades. In 2016, he joined the faculty of George Mason University in Virginia as an assistant professor.

The two prepared for the opening by having meetings to plan out their vision for the shop, and, more importantly, gaining feedback from the "cousins" as their input would be necessary for the success of the vision.

Christopher said they come from a diverse family who love to trade book recommendations. Each month, a different set of cousins will recommend new titles for the shop to carry.

"This keeps our book selections fresh and surprising, and cultivates a dynamic set of interests," Christopher said. "Every month, a new set of voices will be featured on our shelves."

"We have a broad understanding of the word 'cousin' that recognizes the importance of our chosen family and our growing community," he continued.

Patrons can purchase books in three ways: in person, online and through the drive-thru window.

"If you see a book you want (online), you can call Bill’s Sandwich Shop and pay for your new book at the drive-thru window along with your order of chili cheese fries," Christopher said.

With the pending closure of The Pokeberry Exchange at the conclusion of this year, Christopher believes Cousins' may be the only place in New Castle to shop for books.

He reference a quote from author Neil Gaiman's book "American Gods" that reads  “... a town is not a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not fooling a soul.”

"Bookshops are a place for any community to gather and grow," Christopher said. "Our hope is that Cousins’ Books will serve our hometown of New Castle by providing fresh and interesting books, by holding an open space for communication and dialogue around shared readings and by facilitating unique interactions between readers and authors - and hot dogs."

mbasileo@ncnewsonline.com 

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Maria Basileo covers the City of New Castle's government, Act 47 and Union and Shenango school boards. Email her at mbasileo@ncnewsonline.com.

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