The Picture of Dorian Books

Ernie, the bookstore cat, hamming it up onstage next to a copy of “The Book of Cats.”
Ernie, the bookstore cat, hamming it up onstage next to a copy of “The Book of Cats.”

With its green and purple neon sign and old brick, Dorian Books on Elm Street does not appear to be anything out of the ordinary. But such as with the store’s namesake, looks can be very deceiving.

When you step inside the bookstore, you’ll see that the inside is actually much bigger than the outside. The two stores — Dorian’s and Full Circle Florist — are not separated.

On the right side of business is owner and manager Jack Peterson’s business partner Rodd Coonce, who moved his flower business from Hubbard to it’s Youngstown location in 2008. Peterson clarified that there used to be walls separating the two.

“When Rodd moved in, we decided to take them out. Let me tell you, it was so fun knocking out those walls,” Peterson said. “We’d get up on ladders, with 10 or 15-pound sledgehammers, and just go at it and it was really therapeutic, when you watched the debris explode out of the other side of the wall, it was a lot of fun.”

Dorian’s is no stranger to having a good time. Peterson and Rodd host monthly live music events in the space between their two businesses. For a $20 cover charge, patrons can enjoy a seated meal or party on the dance floor.

“I started doing ‘Music at Madison’ in 2003 as a way to make some more money. It was before I bought the building and it was a way of making ends meet. But it turned out to be a hit. We actually just had our 11th anniversary last month,” Peterson explained.

The events start at 8 p.m. and reservations are required. Alcoholic beverages are permitted for those 21-years-old and older, although it is BYOB.

Coonce joked that event-goers seem to be more than OK with the alcohol policy.

“I usually suggest that people bring a good bottle of wine. Then again, I may just be secretly hoping they bring good wine and forget it here,” he said. “Sometimes we’ll have really elderly couples come to see the performances, bringing two bottles of wine with them. By the time they leave, those bottles are empty. It’s pretty impressive.”

As for the name, when asked where “Dorian” came from, Peterson presented a worn copy of “The Picture of Dorian Gray” that he claimed was roughly 80-years-old.

“This is the only novel ever published by Oscar Wilde, and that’s where I got the name from,” Peterson said. “The Picture of Dorian Gray was about a young man who made a wish. He wished that the picture of him would age, but that he would stay young forever. And that’s exactly what happened.”

Peterson’s reverence of classic authors is not only reflected in the store’s name, but in one of the two cats who roam the building and greet customers. Weighing in at nearly 30 pounds, the Maine coon Ernie — named after none other than Ernest Hemingway — has become quite the attraction since he had his picture published in the Vindicator, on WFMJ and even on the cover of The Business Journal.

This month’s “Music at Madison” will feature live performances of songs from Elton John. If you are in a mood for some dining and music, or if you just wish to browse through books, don’t forget to say “hello” to the cats — Baby and the infamous Ernie — on your trip to Dorian Books.

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