GLEN ROCK, NJ - Who shops in a store anymore? Certainly Glen Rockers do, keeping The Curious Reader alive and thriving, while offering people a gathering place, not to mention a reason to read.
Such a question--who shops in a store anymore--was met with disdain a few years ago when most people responded to a "where did you get that" question with, "Amazon."
While shopping online is convenient and often less expensive, it does not give the shopper the opportunity to touch the items they may want to purchase. And when it comes to books, it seems to have become a quaint notion to read a physical book, one of which you hold and flip the pages.
But while the big book stores are barely holding on, smaller bookstores may be just what a downtown shopping district ordered. TAPinto recently chatted with Curious Reader's co-owner, Jim Morgan, who let us in on how he came to open Rock Road's place to bring the kids to buy a book.
Q. What made you want to open a book store in Glen Rock?
Jim: Sally worked for another Glen Rock children’s book store for about eight years. Starting as a part-timer, she [worked her way up to] store manager. While there, she learned the mechanics of bookstore management. Sort of an apprenticeship. In 2013, the owners of her store decided to close their doors and Sally was looking for something to do. About the same time, I had retired as the CFO of a publicly traded television group and was also looking for a new challenge. Since I had always been fascinated with books and the business, starting a new children’s bookstore with Sally seemed to be a natural.
Q. Have you seen a resurgence in sales of late?
Jim: Our business has steadily grown since we opened in October 2013. Before we opened, Sally and I went to Book Expo America and met with publishers, authors, and fellow book sellers. In 2013, most of the media was busy writing obituaries about the end of independent bookstores and the rise of Amazon, Barnes & Noble and eBooks. Many of the people we met thought we were crazy (I suspected that they were looking for the guys in white coats that should have been following us). But we blundered on and just celebrated our sixth anniversary. Two of the “rising” stars in 2013 (B&N and eBooks) seem to have lost their luster.
This year The Glen Rock Guild and The Curious Reader staged the 1st Annual Children’s Author Book Festival. With no precedent, we attracted 37 top-flight children’s authors and over 1,000 attendees to a four-hour book feast. There is definitely an appetite for this product and this is the basis of any resurgence.
Q. What do you attribute the resurgence to?
Jim: As a group, independent bookstores have been steadily opening and growing. All of our customers realize that whatever we sell can be purchased at a lower cost elsewhere, but they also know that those places can’t provide the critical advice that Sally and Chris can give them. For a parent, the recommendation of someone who listens to their children’s reading goals and has actually read the book they suggest, beats the price differential every time.
Q. Did the store go through struggles during any certain time period and what were the causes of the struggles?
Jim: Every small business goes through struggles. We are no exception and we continue to face issues. Things like rising rent and developing new customers is a constant concern.
Q. What do customers say about the store? What brings them in?
Jim: Over and over I hear the same thing from parents & grandparents the day after they have gotten suggestions from Sally or Chris – “What did you give my child? They would not put it down!” This comes from parents of reluctant children and ardent readers. For customers who understand the importance of having knowledgeable book people like Sally & Chris, they frequently say how lucky they are to have The Curious Reader in Glen Rock. What is even better is when a parent tells us something like – “My kid was very upset about something and I asked them what they wanted to feel better. The child then says, I want to go to The Curious Reader”. We also have a group of families that I think of as frequent flyers who are in the store several times a week. Their children see us as an extension of home.
Q. Why is a local book store special, especially during times when we can all go online and read?
Jim: Pardon my skeptism, but really – ON-LINE? You are a product of your electronic corporate masters!
I think the previous answers address the “why” of your question. To better explain my conclusion, let me pose a couple questions to you:
- Have you ever tried to snuggle down to put a child to sleep with a tablet? It does not work.
- Have you ever tried to fall asleep with a tablet? Very difficult because the light from the screen actually inhibits relaxation.
- Have you ever tried to read a tablet during take-off on a plane? Meet the Grinch called the stewardess.
- Have you ever tried to read a book at the beach? While I know that tablet makers “say” it works, try to do it and relax.
- Have you ever wanted to see if your favorite character survives and taken a quick peak at the last page? EBooks allow this, but the time and effort to do so drives up the guilt factor!
- Can a tablet ever really replace the tactile pleasure of reading a paper book?
- Finally, as dyslexic myself, I can attest to the sheer sense of accomplishment that comes from reading the end of a thick bound book. A tablet can never provide this feeling of accomplishment.
Q. What else have you learned about owning your cozy bookstore?
Jim: The obituary for small businesses has been written in many publications. To paraphrase Mark Twain, “The reports of our death is an exaggeration.” This is especially true of bookstores. The publication of books has steadily increased over the last decade. While on-line stores are a huge part of this, independent book stores have staged an amazing recovery. For every customer that sneakily snaps a picture of a book to buy it on-line, there is another customer that tells their friends about the amazing little children’s book store they discovered in Glen Rock!