Local bookstore owners awaken Monday to international fame

Bookstore cat Purrcy Jackson of On The Side Books hangs out on the shoulders of customer Leslie Ostrum as she reviews books at the store on Thanksgiving day.

A local bookstore’s small-town kindness has gone viral.

A satisfied customer’s review of On the Side Books, lauding owners Heather and Brandon Whittemore for their holiday spirit and excellent customer service, was posted on the Reddit platform — and has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people as of Monday.

According to Heather Whittemore, the story began when a customer, Leslie Ostrum, left a five star review of On The Side Books on the businesses’ Google page. After she thanked Ostrum for the kind review of her small local business, she then shared a screenshot of the Ostrum review on the business’ Facebook page.

The review explained Ostrum’s family was having Christmas at Thanksgiving. Her sister brought with her a foster child that the family hadn’t known was coming.

Ostrum needed help, fast, to make Christmas happen for the child.

“This foster boy requested books by a certain author and Japanese comics. I looked at Walmart and found nothing. I forgot it was Thanksgiving day but Googled bookstore in Bradford and On The Side came up. It said it opened at 11 a.m. so I called,” Ostrum wrote.

“I asked the guy what time they were open until and he said they aren’t open because it's Thanksgiving but he had gone there to turn on the heater. He was kind enough to open the store on the holiday so I could give this foster boy a great Christmas!” she continued.

“They had the whole series of the author and almost the whole collection of Japanese comics. The smile on the foster boy’s face was priceless! Thank you to the owners and those friendly kitties who made me laugh while I was there,” Ostrum stated in her review.

After coming across the screenshot on the On The Side Books Facebook page and unbeknownst to Heather Whittemore, a Bradford local, Christine Tyler, shared the screenshot in a group on Sunday called r/HumanBeingBros where acts of kindness are recorded and admired by Reddit users regularly.

Reddit, which is advertised as “The Front Page of the Internet” is, simply put, a message board wherein users submit links. The community of users then deems the value of any given message by upvoting or liking the valuable and downvoting the unworthy. This voting system also determines a message’s position on the site.

Reddit user Allrayden echoed what seemed to be the popular sentiment about the post when commenting, “I really wish more people had the decency to do things like this for one another. There’s plenty of people who would just go there to turn the heater on, and get back home to the warmth. Kudos to both the employees as well as the person gifting the books, and the person bringing the foster home for the holidays.”

By 4 p.m. on Monday the views on Reddit reached a staggering 358,000 according to the original Reddit content poster, Tyler. The Reddit up vote was at 28,000 user votes with 193 responses.

“I didn’t know any of this was happening until I received a (private message) on Instagram from a stranger letting me know that the post was taking off,” Heather Whittemore recounted. “Upon getting that link and seeing other people posting on Facebook and contacting me via my business email, I was seeing the exposure of the post grow most of the day on Monday at about 1,000 likes every hour.”

Since the Reddit post went viral, Heather Whittemore said, “I’ve had people reaching out telling me they would like to visit the bookstore, they would like to purchase items online and I’ve also received ten more five star reviews since this happened.

“Everyone was also very curious about the bookstore cats as well,” she stated. “It’s been a crazy adventure watching all this unfold and interacting with people from all over, even a gentleman from Belgium found me on Facebook and commented on the post. It’s a blessing to see the outpouring of support and positivity.”

On The Side Books is a Bradford small business which sells used books of all genres including new children’s books and products by Barefoot Books, local authors’ books, local artwork and more.

On The Side Books has two upcoming events on Saturday. During the day will be the Old Fashioned Christmas with Mrs. Claus’ storyland and at night will be the Winter Wine Walk with Allegheny Cellars Winery.