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Sweet Pickle Books
Photograph: Leigh Altshuler/Sweet Pickle Books

This shop on the Lower East Side sells used books and pickles

Talk about an only-in-New-York kind of experience.

By
Anna Ben Yehuda
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If you like to delve into your Hemingway with a side of dill pickles, you're in luck: Sweet Pickle Books on Orchard Street aims to provide you with just that kind of experience. 

Sweet Pickle Books
Photograph: Essex Crossing

Founded by 29-year-old Leigh Altshuler this past November, smack-dab in the middle of the pandemic (the day Joe Biden won the Presidency, actually), the Lower East Side shop sells used books and jars of pickles as an homage to the neighborhood's history.

"I would watch Crossing Delancey with my mom all the time," says Altshuler, recalling the 1988 classic rom-com about bookstore employee Izzy and Anton, the married author who would court her. "The Lower East Side has such a long pickling history and those pickle guys are no longer there and I wanted to pay homage and respect to it all."

Sweet Pickle Books
Photograph: Leigh Altshuler/Sweet Pickle Books

The tomes range in genre and scope—browsers get to page through cooking books, works of fiction, reads for kids and more—while there are two types of pickles on offer: dill and farmhouse. Both versions are sold in two-pound jars. Altshuler used to pickle them herself in her own Lower East Side apartment, at her boyfriend's house or even in the store's basement, but she has most recently tasked the farm that she sources the produce from to do the pickling as well. 

It appears as if New Yorkers are as connected to their pickles as they are to their books. In fact, the store owner reveals that she sells just as many of the former as she does of the latter. 

Sweet Pickle Books
Photograph: Leigh Altshuler/Sweet Pickle Books

"These are two things that are really unique to New York and the Lower East Side. They are constant staples," she says. "Especially during the pandemic, I want to give the area a place that is grounded in the history of the neighborhood. To me, the store is a showcase of a deeper connection to the Lower East Side in specific." 

Sweet Pickle Books
Photograph: Leigh Altshuler/Sweet Pickle Books

Customers can purchase their reading and snacking materials online as well (someone on Avenue B apparently has a standing weekly order of two jars of pickles) as the store ships them all around the country, but if you're in town we urge you to visit in person: there's something about the smell of delectable pickles paired with old books that tickles New Yorkers in all the right places.

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