Reader’s Café Blends Bookstore & Coffee Shop Into Successful Family-Based Business
By Karen Hendricks | Photography by Casey Martin
What’s the only thing better than curling up with a good book? How about a good book—plus a cup of coffee. If it’s a page-turner, better make it a full lunch.
You can do all of the above at Reader’s Café, a staple of downtown Hanover for more than 25 years.
“You can get lost in a bookstore for hours—and who doesn’t love a good cup of coffee while you’re lost in a coffee shop? We weren’t sure how each would do without the other, so we put them together,” says co-owner Mary Ann Maitland.
But the blended business model at the Reader’s Cafe isn’t the only marriage on the books. Behind this successful small business is the husband-and-wife team of Derf and Mary Ann Maitland. Adams County natives who now reside in Littlestown, the couple also planted small business roots that have blossomed into success.
A Storyline for Small Business Success
Located on Broadway, the Reader’s Café is about two blocks from Hanover’s Center Square. But once visitors step inside, they often comment that they feel worlds away.
That’s the feeling the Maitlands first had when they considered the property—which contains a surprise. From the outside, you might not guess it used to be a church—the former Lohr’s Memorial Evangelical United Brethren Church.
“As soon as we walked in, we knew this is where we had to be,” Mary Ann Maitland says. “You almost feel like you could be in a little place in Europe.”
All-original circa 1870s wooden ceilings soar up to the second floor bookshelves. In gold lettering, “A monument of praise to God” marks the former church altar—but today it’s atop the coffee counter. Coffee, after all, is considered by some to be a holy experience.
“People meet here for lunch, friends meet here, people come to work on their computers, others come to browse—then start reading and get caught up in a good book,” Maitland says. “But I think people mostly just like to come here to escape, to make time for themselves.”
Even after opening their doors more than two decades ago, there’s still a steady stream of area residents discovering the Reader’s Café for the first time, among the longtime regular customers. While Mary Ann Maitland minds the store, Derf Maitland teaches English at nearby Delone Catholic High School.
Through the years, the Reader’s Café has grown, alongside the Maitland family.
“We basically raised our four kids here—lots of customers remember them,” Mary Ann Maitland says, recalling the days their toddlers attended preschool nearby. Today, their youngest is a senior in college.
“It’s been a labor of love—it’s been the anchor of our family,” Derf Maitland adds.
An independent bookstore, the Reader’s Café carries a wide range of titles, including popular literature, mystery, science fiction, local authors, young adult, and children’s selections. Titles are mostly gleaned from the independent best sellers’ list, and they’re all housed on the first floor. The open-air, loft-style format of the second floor includes a carefully curated selection of used books.
“One of my favorite things is when young children come in, 8 or 9 years old, asking for books in a series,” Mary Ann Maitland explains. “I love when kids come in, excited to be in a bookstore.”
Just as books can transport readers to magical places, there’s something about instilling a love of reading in children that forms special memories.
“We’ve seen generations here; we now have customers we first saw as kids, bringing their children in. We get to see them again as adults and parents, and the fact that they want to bring their children in speaks volumes,” she says. “It’s almost like they’re treasuring their memories here, and they want their children to experience it.”
…Part Coffee Shop
The Maitlands have steered away from mass market books and, similarly, that strategy carries over into the menu. Caffé D’arte coffee, cappuccino, and latte options add delicious aromas to the shop. An award-winning Seattle-based coffee roaster, Caffe D’arte features traditional Italian blends. If coffee’s not your thing, the Reader’s Café also serves up chai tea and smoothies.
The food menu “is very small, but what we have is good,” Maitland describes. The menu board lists a handful of salads, soups, and sandwiches.
The signature sandwich, the Tarragon Chicken Salad Sandwich, features chicken from Hanover’s Myers’ Meat Market in tandem with crunchy walnuts and juicy grapes. A former employee shared the treasured recipe, and it stuck.
More coffee shop faves include the colorful Rosemary Tuna Wrap, flavorful Greek Salad, and Oriental Salad popping with fresh bursts of citrus against tangy poppy seed dressing.
Whether customers have an appetite for books, an appetite for delicious food, or both, the Reader’s Café has established itself as a satisfying downtown Hanover destination.
“Maybe it’s a nostalgia thing, with pent-up demand from COVID, but business has really picked up over the last year,” Derf Maitland reflects. “We talk about our family as part of our business, but I would like to extend that to Hanover, because Hanover loves this place too, and we are grateful to the community.”
Visitors who aren’t from Hanover almost always have the same observation, he says.
“People say all the time—‘I wish we had one of these in my hometown.’”
125 Broadway, Hanover