Arts & Entertainment

Maplewood Turns Out to Wish [words] Bookstore and its Vocational Training Program Happy Anniversary


MAPLEWOOD, NJ – [words] Bookstore celebrated its fifth year in business last Saturday. 

Five years in business is the traditional marker for determining if a small company will remain in business or not, and the store was jubilant with optimism that Maplewood’s independent bookstore has beaten the odds. In what is considered a historically unfriendly market for booksellers, due to publishing industry upheaval and Internet shopping, [words] had much to celebrate as they look forward to continuing being a community destination into their fifth year and beyond.

Store principals Jonah and Ellen Zimiles made official remarks to the community gathered in the store, thanking them for supporting their vision to be “not just your typical community” – a word play on Maplewood’s reputation for being exceptionally inclusive as well as on their autism mission. Jonah Zimiles expressed appreciation for local customers, who have made the store not only possible but also a thriving community destination. Ellen Zimiles thanked the store’s staff, many of whom have been there throughout the store’s five years, for their loyalty, hard work and excellent customer-service.  The store also celebrates the fifth year of its Vocational Training Program for individuals with autism.  Over 60 people have participated in the program and the Zimiles’ cite this as the driving force behind the store’s success. 

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The store opened Jan. 20, 2009, with the intention of making sure Maplewood always had a bookstore.  The local independent bookstore, Goldfinch, was closing, and Jonah Zimiles, a recent MBA graduate at age 51, had hoped to launch a job training program for youth with autism.  When his wife Ellen walked by the soon-to-be-shuttered community bookstore, she proposed the idea that they merge the community’s need for a bookstore with its other need for a welcoming site for families with special needs children – fusing job training to individuals with autism into the two-part mission. 

In its five years, [words] Bookstore was named Best Indie Bookstore by New Jersey Magazine for three consecutive years, was profiled twice in Entrepreneur Magazine, and was covered extensively on MSNBC in 2011 for their pioneering stance on job crafting.  Committed to nurturing employees’ strengths and community values, store owner Jonah Zimiles remarked that he looks forward to continued growth as a bookstore – events, school partnerships, bookgroups—and as a hub for the community, especially those with special needs. 

Customers enjoyed a store-wide discount all day and the first 250 shoppers received a complimentary, limited edition anniversary tote with purchase. 

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