BAYONNE, NJ - When searching for a name for her new bookstore in the Bergen Point section of the city in 2017, Sandra Dear asked around as to what people called that part of the city. People she talked to told her they called it “BoHo,” a kind of hip Bayonne version of SoHo in New York City.
“So, I decided to call the store The Little Boho Bookshop,” Dear told TAPinto Bayonne. “Later on, I found out not everybody called this part of town that.”
Historic Bergen Point has been trying to define itself for decades, but over the last few years has made great strides towards becoming a viable business community.
Even with the Wednesday visit of Tammy Murphy, wife of Gov. Phil Murphy, specifically to pay tribute to Dear as a minority business owner, the entrepreneur said the story of Bergen Point’s revival should not be about her, but about the group of new and existing businesses that have brought that part of the city back to life.
Located between 4th and 5th streets on Broadway, the bookshop is one of a number of trendy establishments that have opened over the last few years, joining long established businesses.
Like many small businesses, Dear’s was forced to shut its doors for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While she continued to keep in contact with customers via the internet, Dear said small bookstores like hers are about providing an experience.
The internet giants can ship a book quickly, she said, but people come to small bookstores to touch the books and to talk about books, book trends, and to possibly get suggestions as to what they might find interesting.
Dear, who grew up in San Diego, was an executive for several publishing giants, and settled in Bayonne after she came to work in one of the New York offices. “I’ve been around books all of my life,” she said.
She was vice president and director Custom & Proprietary Sales for Penguin Group USA and vice president for advanced marketing for Random House. “I wanted a view of the water,” she said. “And I found I could get one here in Bayonne.”
Even though the pandemic closed her doors, it also seems to have created a renewed interest in books with a number of trends happening. Although in the past, newly published books such as Harry Potter drove up book sales, Dear said, there is something new every week. Currently, there is a strong demand for books on diversity, which publishers are scrambling to fill.
“I was blindsided by the shortage. It was like the shortage of toilet paper. I don’t know why it happened,” she said. She only recently set up her website to help give information to customers around the store and its offerings.
While her store is located near the southernmost part of Bayonne, her customers come from all over the city, as well as from Jersey City and Hoboken. “We recently got our first order from Belgium,” she said.
Children’s books and coloring books have been on the top of the list as parents try to find ways to keep their kids occupied during the pandemic. Dear and her staff try to keep tabs on current trends, reading many of the books that are most requested, or reading enough of them to be able to talk about the books.
“Nobody can read all the books in the store,” she laughed. “People like to ask about books. But they also like to browse.” The narrow store has walls filled with books, and a jar of hand sanitizer near the front, one of the many precautions the store takes in this era of COVID-19.
“We only allow six people in the store at a time,” she said.
The store also has modified hours 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Sunday is family day, offering them the opportunity to make an appointment to come and shop, and have a book buying experience.
Dear pointed out that Murphy, who was joined by Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski and Councilman Neil Carroll III, both of whom sounded the call for residents to ship local, was part of the First Lady’s statewide tour of women and minority businesses. It also, Dear added, fit into Murphy’s efforts towards expanding reading programs for kids.
Local shops like Little Boho Bookshop, Dear said, work best when they work in conjunction with other businesses, poignant to the coffee shop nearby, the deli on the corner and other places that draw people in, to build a community.
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