August shows at Portsmouth Book and Bar


Great music coming to Portsmouth book and bar in August.  All shows free of charge.



August 1st:  Laura Cortese  9:00 pm

Cortese’s rich alto voice colors the Scottish and English traditional songs with very contemporary tonality and phrasing.


August 2nd:  Margaret Glaspy and Nick Hakim  9:00 pm

Sultry indie- jazz singer whose music is simple, fascinating, and beautiful. Not to be missed.


August 3rd:  Rockwood Ferry  9 pm

Hailing from Ithaca, NY, Rockwood Ferry brilliantly blends roots, jazz, and progressive folk.


August 5th:  Noun, Modern Hut, Little Big Bear  9 pm

Two Indie/punk acts from New Jersey NOUN (Marissa from SCREAMING FEMALES) and MODERN HUT along with twee-pop songwriter LITTLE BIG BEAR.


August 17th:  Pesky j. Nixon  9 pm

Drawing influences from contemporary urban balladeers, rowdy southern bluegrass, and the sardonic yet wry wit of New England’s localized folk scenes.


August 24:  Willie “loco” Alexander & Preacher Jack   9 pm

Punk rock pioneers, boogie woogie balledeers, frontman of the 1960’s proto-punk outfit the Lost, a party that shouldn’t be missed.


August 29th:  Kawehi    9 pm

Hawaiian born Songwriter who plays contemporary music with electronic and toy instruments.


August 31st:  Animal Hospital  9 pm

Boston-based Animal Hospital consists of Kevin Micka and is based on the idea of building a piece of music up from scratch into a completely fleshed out arrangement often containing enough parts to employ many musicians.

Portsmouth Book and Bar reviewed in New Hampshire Business Magazine



Portsmouth Bars Put New Twist on Beer
Published Thursday, February 14, 2013



Portsmouth has long been known for its young, hip atmosphere and nightlife, so it takes creativity to stand out. Two new establishments are creating a buzz with beer: Earth Eagle Brewings, a nanobrewery with a tasting room that hung out its shingle in November on High Street; and Portsmouth Book and Bar, a used bookstore with a restaurant and bar, which opened on Pleasant Street in December.

While combining a bookstore and bar may be novel for Portsmouth, it’s nothing new for John Petrovato and his business partners, Jon Strymish and David Lovelace. The trio opened Montagne Book Mill 15 years ago in western Massachusetts, and it is still running. Petrovato also owns Raven’s Used Books in Cambridge and Boston, which he says had its best year ever in 2012. Still, the bookstore business is difficult. “I probably wouldn’t have come to Portsmouth and just opened a bookstore because rents are very high here and the bookstore market is a little bit smaller than it used to be,” Petrovato says. “Having the other revenue streams helps us be able to do this.”

Portsmouth Book and Bar, which employs 12 people, stocks more than 15,000 used books that sell for 50 to 80 percent off the cover price. While perusing books, patrons can also enjoy a meal and select from eight bottled beers and a dozen wines. Petrovato says it will take years to recoup the upfront investment, but initial book sales are better than expected. The store sold more than 4,000 books in December, according to its Facebook page on Jan. 4.

New Hampshire has more than its fair share of brewpubs and breweries, and while microbrews have been de rigueur, nanobrews have become the latest trend. Earth Eagle Brewings turned a hobby into a business, offering a tasting room that’s become standing room only. “We were trying to figure out how could we get into the game for the smallest amount of money. That’s where the tasting room idea came up,” says Butch Heilshorn, who co-owns the brewery with Alexander McDonald, co-owner of A & G Homebrew Supply in Portsmouth, where Earth Eagle Brewings is located.

The tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday. Heilshorn and McDonald aim to have six beers on tap, and Heilshorn says the 20-person capacity room is often full. The nanobrewery has one 31-gallon barrel for brewing. The beer costs $1 for a 4-ounce taste, the size allowed by law, but they are working on legislative efforts to increase that.

Customers can buy the take-home version in either 32- or 64-oz. growlers (jugs). Heilshorn says the pair had been home brewing for a few years. One thing that makes their beer unique is that some varieties are brewed with herbs called gruits, instead of hops, the traditional ingredient. “It’s almost like people don’t think it’s beer without hops in it, but for centuries no beer had hops,” he says. To learn more, visit or Portsmouth Book and Bar on Facebook.

Boston Globe Sunday travel section reviews Portsmouth Book and Bar

PORTSMOUTH — Could ale cure the ails of independent bookstores? Given the crowd that filled the newly-opened Portsmouth Book & Bar on a recent Saturday afternoon, it’s certainly possible. As the winter sun gushed through the tall picture windows of the bookstore-taproom hybrid, dozens of customers lounged on sofas, held court at a cozy six-seat bar, and huddled around tables imbibing books and glasses of beer and wine.

While cafes have become common appendages as bookstores try to fend off the Amazon and e-book assault, Book & Bar, which opened in December, adds a new dimension with beer, wine, gourmet sandwiches, small plates, and pastries. Brew lovers can go upscale with one of the local craft beers on tap or slum with a can of Narragansett, the sudsy equivalent of a trashy romance novel. There are about a dozen choices on the wine list, and caffeine fiends will still find coffee, espresso, cappuccino, and coffeehouse chatter.

The menu of high-quality used books for sale, many of them for less than the price of a beer, is even more impressive. Thousands of tomes are organized in sections from graphic novels to math, New England to Eastern philosophy.

The renovated, 2,800-square-foot space, located in the city’s old granite Custom House just a block from Market Square, retains the building’s 19th-century grandeur with lofty coffered ceilings and classical columns. The result is a very literary atmosphere for enjoying a drink, a meal, and a good read. Good luck ordering that on Amazon.

Portsmouth Book and Bar’s Fiction is up

 Books are finally getting on the shelves.  A few days we put up 2500 novels on the shelves. Only 12500 books left to organize before we open. Portsmouth Book and Bar should be open mid- November, 2012.

Recent article in Portsmouth Patch on our Book and Bar project

Article about our up and coming project “Portsmouth Book and Bar” as written in the Portsmouth Patch.  Sadly, it is filled with factual errors, spelling mistakes and the like. But here it is in any case.


Portsmouth Book and Bar Hopes to Open Next Month

New book store/restaurant owners are in the process of transforming former Customs House building space into a unique cafe that will sell books and serve food, wine and beer.

John Strymish said the idea behind the new Portsmouth Book and Bar is simple: “People don’t go to book stores just to buy books anymore.”

He, along with his two business partners, David Lovelace and John Tetravato, have 30 years of book store experience between them and are in the throes of transforming 2,800 square feet of space in the former Customs House building into the new book store and cafe on Pleasant Street.

On Thursday morning, Lovelace said they are shooting for a mid-October opening and when Portsmouth Book and Bar patrons arrive, they will see a bar with 10 stools and cafe tables surrounded by book cases and book shelves that will line the walls.

Lovelace said patrons will be able to order a glass of wine, a pint of beer, coffee and menu items such as small plates of cheese and fruit, salads, sandwiches and soups prepared by Chef Amy Mehaffey.

Strymish said they also plan to hire 8 to 10 part- and full-time employees to operate the new book store/restaurant.

Lovelace said patrons will be able to browse books as they do in other book stores, but they can also sit and visit with their friends in what the owners hope will be a unique atmosphere that preserves much of the ornate historic crown mouldings that were part of the original building constructed in 1850.

Lovelace believes Portsmouth is ready for this novel book store/cafe model.

“Everybody understands what a book store cafe is, but no one knows what a book store bar is,” he said. “But to me, it seems like a logical leap.”

Lovelance and his two business partners currently own and operate Montague Book Mill in Montague, Mass., a book store/cafe that was created from an old grist mill, and he said the college students who attend the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and the rest of the community really like it.

The three men are also involved with the Raven book stores in Cambridge and Boston, Mass., and the New England Mobile Book Fair, Lovelace said.

Lovelace said he first had the idea to create the Portsmouth Book and Bar when he sailed into the city two years ago and realized it would be good place for such a business. He and his business partners later found the perfect space inside the former Customs House and signed a lease.

The Nathan Sargent architectural firm in Boston came up with the interior design for the new book store cafe that called for raising the ceilings to let more light into the space. Lovelace said they will also reuse a window facing State Street that was originally a door as an entrance way to an outdoor sidewalk cafe with alcohol service in the spring of 2013.

Terrance O’Neil, the project manager, said they hired the Portsmouth historic restoration firm of Adams and Roy to help them restore some ornate crown mouldings along the top of the restaurant/book store walls that had suffered water damage. O’Neil said their goal is to create a modern book store cafe that retains as much of the former Customs House’s character as possible.

One feature about the Customs House building that O’Neil likes is that it incorporated a great deal of structural steel. He said there is also coffered brick on each floor.

Strymish said the new book store restaurant will offer patrons wi-fi so they can use their laptops and tablets. They will also sell a wide selection of used books along with cards and journals.

When asked why he believes the Portsmouth Book and Bar will do well when it opens, Strymish replied, “It just seems like what people want.”

Summer of book buying

Raven Used Books of Boston and Cambridge has picked up an enormous amount of books this summer.  Yesterday we purchased a philosophy collection of about 1500 titles and 3 days earlier a 2000 book collection of modern firsts (primarily first edition hard cover fiction and poetry).  Since Jan., 2012, we have purchased 140,000 books and have sold over 81,000 thus far.  Usually we purchase that many in one full year but the quality of collections that we are being offered are much more numerous in previous years.  It is probably due to the fact that other bookstores are not buying books aggressively and/or the reality that after opening up the Boston shop 2 years ago, we are buying much of the Boston market besides the cambridge one.  In any case, if you are looking for certain kinds of specialized collections, feel free to contact us via this site or the stores.

About Raven Used books

about raven used books
John Petrovato, owner of Raven Used Books, has been a bookseller for over 20 years. His first shop was the Montague Bookmill in Montague, MA, which he co-owned with David Lovelace from 1992 to 2000. Located in a nineteenth century grist mill, The Bookmill was a beautiful, expansive store that stocked over 50,000 books and provided a full service cafe. Featured numerous times in the New York Times, Boston Globe and Yankee magazine, the shop also hosted both local and national acts in its performance space.

In 1995, John Petrovato, David Lovelace and Betsy Frederick opened up Raven Used Books in Northampton, MA, followed by the second Raven in Amherst, MA a few years later. Both these shops had strong selections of general, literary and scholarly titles. In 2005 the two stores became separate business entities, and John moved the Amherst shop to Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA, excited about the possibility of running a bookstore in a premier academic location.

The Harvard Square shop opened in month 2005 at 52 JFK street. Specializing in scholarly and literary titles, the store quickly obtained a loyal and enthusiastic customer base. Hundreds of books come through the doors every day, sold by professors, grad students, and the general literary community. This turn over of 1200+ books every week keeps the stock at Raven Used Books fresh and exciting.

In 2009, John began to search for a Boston location for a second store. Despite trepidation among the general public about the declining state of the retail book business, John felt a quality bookstore in a prime location could do well. In March, 2010, he opened Raven Used Books on the best known shopping street in New England– Newbury Street in Boston. Located between Gloucester and Fairfield streets, The Raven has already established itself as a prime tourist destination as well as local community bookstore. As in Harvard Square, neighbors and visitors alike were excited to see a privately owned local business open up in an area where chain stores have become more prevalent. In 2011, the store began hosting readings and book launches, including luminary speakers such as Noam Chomsky. In its first year of business, the book store sold almost 50,000 books. The Boston store was awarded “Best of the New” by the Boston Globe in 2010 and both shops won the Boston Phoenix’s readers poll for “Best Used Bookstore” for 2011.

As opposed to many other booksellers in the country, John Petrovato believes that the market, though struggling, is still strong and plans to open up additional shops in the following years. As opposed to most bookstores who are putting more and more of their stock on-line and/or closing their doors, The Raven has very few books on line, as John prefers to have the best stock on the shelves for local customers rather than to be sold to anonymous buyers around the world. It is a practice that has helped build a loyal customer base and one of the strongest stock of books available on the shelves of a used bookstore.

Although his focus are now in the Boston and Cambridge area, John still has an interest and love for the Western Massachusetts book scene. He stocks the books for sale at Pages Coffee Bar and Bookstore, in the picturesque small town of Conway in the Pioneer Valley. The bookstore stocks about 8,000 well priced books in a nineteenth century Masonic temple on the corner of Rt. 116 and Shelburne Falls road. (Pages also has, hands down, some of the best coffee drinks around!) And finally, John’s former business partner, Betsy Frederick, continues to own and run the original Raven Used Books, now a Northampton landmark, and has opened an exciting second location in Greenfield MA.