Lyrical Ballad in Saratoga is a treasure trove for bookworms

SARATOGA SPRINGS – When unknowing visitors walk past the storefront of Lyrical Ballad, a locally owned downtown bookstore, they might not notice anything unique about the quaint shop. Its labyrinthine interior is just one of the surprises it offers.

In its more than 40 years of existence, Lyrical Ballad Bookstore on  7 Phila St. has captivated bookworms with its treasure trove of used publications and assortment of ephemera. It’s garnered newfound attention from locals and tourists due to a viral Tweet with more than 95,000 likes shared by author Melissa Caruso. 

Described by visitors as a magical destination, the brick-and-mortar store is comprised of eight rooms and winding halls stacked high with new, used and rare books. “I think the structure and the layout is certainly one of its selling points,” said co-owner Jason Zerrillo.

The underground secret was built in 1971 by Saratoga Springs businessman and book lover John DeMarco, who ran the shop for nearly half a century and helped it survive the competition of larger retailers like Barnes & Noble and online sellers.

When DeMarco died in 2019, Zerrillo, who’d worked at the shop for 17 years, took over with his business partner and prioritized maintaining its  charm.


For the past 40 years, Lyrical Ballad Bookstore in downtown Saratoga Springs has captivated bookworms with its labyrinth of new, used and rare books.


Melissa Manno/Times Union.

For the past 40 years, Lyrical Ballad Bookstore in downtown Saratoga Springs has captivated bookworms with its labyrinth of new, used and rare books.

For the past 40 years, Lyrical Ballad Bookstore in downtown Saratoga Springs has captivated bookworms with its labyrinth of new, used and rare books.


Melissa Manno/Times Union.

The vaulted room includes a collection of rare and fragile books as well as original movie posters.

The sprawling collection exceeds 200,000 books, according to Zerrillo, with some separated into a vaulted room due to their rarity and fragility. With the escort of a shop worker, visitors can browse the protected collection that includes first edition books worth thousands of dollars in the collector’s market, as well as original movie posters (see: Lord of the Rings).

A signed copy of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” is one of the shop’s most valuable items, though it’s not currently up for sale. Other items with hefty price tags include original copies of classic novels and books that are decorated with rare illustrations.

For the past 40 years, Lyrical Ballad Bookstore in downtown Saratoga Springs has captivated bookworms with its labyrinth of new, used and rare books.

For the past 40 years, Lyrical Ballad Bookstore in downtown Saratoga Springs has captivated bookworms with its labyrinth of new, used and rare books.


Melissa Manno/Times Union.

For the past 40 years, Lyrical Ballad Bookstore in downtown Saratoga Springs has captivated bookworms with its labyrinth of new, used and rare books.

For the past 40 years, Lyrical Ballad Bookstore in downtown Saratoga Springs has captivated bookworms with its labyrinth of new, used and rare books.


Melissa Manno/Times Union.

Owner Jason Zerrillo said one of the most valuable books in the collection is a signed copy of Bram Stoker’s

To avoid falling victim to the death of the independent bookstore, Lyrical Ballad has had to adapt to a challenging business landscape. They have taken a more interesting approach at finding alternative ways to make money. You might notice that the store has a minimal online presence, and it’s because in-person interaction is part of the location’s allure.  

Instead, the store has sold a number of books to be featured in major movies and television productions, including Age of Innocence, Meet Joe Black, Sabrina, Time Machine, the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Succession. (Apparently, purchasing the authentic books for set is cheaper than production creating their own.)

New inventory arrives daily. From state and local history to fictional series and children’s books, the store’s offerings satisfy all of its customer’s interests. “It sounds cheesy, but I love when somebody’s looking for something, especially a young person looking for a signed copy and they get super excited when they find it,” Zerrillo said.

In trend with its home base, there is a large selection of books relating to thoroughbred horse racing. And although one is warned to never judge a book by its cover, the myriad of intricately decorated bindings is mesmerizing to behold.

(In wandering through the mazelike interior, meandering through twisting halls and exploring the seemingly never-ending collection, this writer was most enthralled by the Old Books Room. It’s small, adorn with an oriental rug and enclosed with cases of antique books that reach the ceiling. It’s ethereal nature, however, comes from what lines the shelves.)

For the past 40 years, Lyrical Ballad Bookstore in downtown Saratoga Springs has captivated bookworms with its labyrinth of new, used and rare books.

For the past 40 years, Lyrical Ballad Bookstore in downtown Saratoga Springs has captivated bookworms with its labyrinth of new, used and rare books.


Melissa Manno/Times Union.

For the past 40 years, Lyrical Ballad Bookstore in downtown Saratoga Springs has captivated bookworms with its labyrinth of new, used and rare books.

For the past 40 years, Lyrical Ballad Bookstore in downtown Saratoga Springs has captivated bookworms with its labyrinth of new, used and rare books.


Melissa Manno/Times Union.

The Old Book Room is one of eight rooms that comprise Lyrical Ballad Bookstore’s labyrinth collection.