The Pokeberry Exchange is not easily defined and is home to many things.
The history of Pokeberry Exchange began when Susan Linville moved from Indiana to New Castle eleven (11) years ago after searching for an inexpensive place to live and write. She lives in a Victorian house from the 1890’s in New Castle’s historic North Hill neighborhood.
She quickly became involved with New Visions for Lawrence County and began writing articles on a broad range of topics from local clean-ups to a long-running column on historic homes in the area.
Susan had always admired the building at 41 North Mercer Street in downtown New Castle, as well as held very positive feelings for the city of New Castle, and decided to open Pokeberry Exchange in 2016. Her underlying goal was to drive more traffic into downtown New Castle and ultimately be one of many unique retailers in the downtown area. The store also serves as her office for the publishing business.
Today, Pokeberry Exchange is a gift shop offering a variety of specialty gifts based on the themes of light, sound, history and nature. You’ll find colorful lanterns, classical wind chimes, old fashioned toys, and colorful birdbaths.
The store is also home to Pokeberry Press, a micro-publisher interested in regional books both factual and fantastic.
Pokeberry Exchange also carries a selection of Organic Loose Teas, (The Art of Tea), and herbs, as well as sample bags of many great teas including black, green, white, oolong, rooibos, pu-erh, and herbal teas, and a unique selection of books, gifts, chimes, natural soaps, oils and herbs.
Susan also operates Pokeberry Publishing out of her North Mercer Street location and can either act as the publisher or provide assistance for self-publishing. In such an instance, for a modest fee, Pokeberry Exchange sets up the format and cover design of the book, as well as creates an Amazon account on behalf of the author for a ‘print on demand’ book.
In an effort to attract people and improve the appearance of the downtown, Susan painted a sunflower mural on the side of the building in 2018. The work has attracted plenty of interest, with many people posing for pictures with the mural. It has recently become a Pokemon Go stop also.
Susan and her husband Steve Ramey are expanding the reach of the building. A meeting area has been set up in the back. It is home to a local writers group, and the Pokeberry has begun sponsoring monthly talks. Once the second floor has been remodeled they would like to offer incubator space for small businesses.
History of 41 North Mercer Street
In 1804, Alexander Hawthorn built the Exchange Hotel at the corner of North and Mercer Streets in New Castle. He decided to paint the wood frame building with an iron oxide compound which turned it to a pinkish-purple color. Since the building was the color of the berries produced by the Pokeweed plant, the citizens nicknamed the hotel the Pokeberry Exchange.
The old hotel was bought by Fredrick Reinholdt in the early 1850s. He replaced the wood frame building with three brick ones about 1855. Fredrick’s son, Dr. J.B. Reinholdt, graduated from Jefferson College in Philadelphia in 1862. He immediately entered the army as volunteer surgeon during the Civil War. After settling in Muscatine, Iowa, he returned to New Castle in 1868 where he worked as a surgeon out of the 41 North Mercer Street building. Dr. Reinholdt died in 1873 at the age of 36 because of poor health.
The building held two apartments during the 1880s, being home to a railroad worker, glass cutter, dressmaker and widows. In 1903, the downstairs became the dental office of Dr. William E. Jackson. He practiced alone and then with his son William F. Jackson. An addition was added to the back of the building for storage in 1925. By 1926, the Jacksons shared the building with Colonial Ice Cream. A small cement block addition was constructed in 1928 to be used as a kitchen.
In 1932, William F. moved the dental practice upstairs and the ground floor became DeRosa Market. That was followed by Wadlinger Market and Hoffman Market. In 1949, the market was replaced by Spotless Cleaners, followed by Flash Cleaners, and Angelo Marcucci Dry Cleaners. William F. died in 1967, but the dry cleaners remained in the building until the late 1970s.
The building sat vacant for a few years before becoming the Book Rack, run by Judy Pacell in 1983. When she retired, the building remained empty in the early 2000s. It opened as the Pokeberry Exchange, a gift shop named after the original hotel, run by Susan Linville, in 2016.