Watchung Booksellers has good genes. It is located close to parking, its building is charmingly reminiscent of the Good Old Days, its reading areas sunny, and it has twenty-three years of history behind it. But WB’s success is the result of nurture, not nature.
Owner Margot Sage-EL says their secret is “hard work.”
WB has supported and enhanced the scaffold of cultural institutions that make Montclair a cultural gem. That’s a good business move, but also reflects their passion for their work. Part of the reason why you’ll always be met with a smile is that they love what they do.
WB has flexed with the times. You can order ebooks there, or order online and pick up the book. A good move at that point would be to take your new book and start reading it in their cafe, Tiny Elephant. You might meet someone there who had also read that book, or maybe they had a recommendation for your next good read. Think of WB as your reading spa.
They have developed the technical savvy to put out a lively newsletter reminding their readers of upcoming events, staff picks, and best sellers – not in the whole world, but at WB.
So what does WB’s local market want? They don’t want “fluff” books, but ones reflecting the deeply held joys and concerns of Montclair; and, among other things, Montclairites care about their children. The back room is where kids sit on knees and get read to, or where grandparents peruse shelves for the perfect birthday present for a beloved young person– a book about baseball, trains, drawing, fairies, or YA detectives.
WB has 500 events a year, including the Saturday readings for children. Their collaboration with local editors and agents introduces them regularly to new authors, and new authors get the same warm welcome and promotional support as, say, Montclair’s NYT bestselling authors Pam Satran and Christina Baker Kline.
This year, WB knocked out a wall to connect with the Tiny Elephant café next door. One night they moved all the tables and fixtures and 50 diners celebrated the Feast Worldwide – an event which happens on designated nights in many places throughout the world. People gather, eat interesting food (in this case, prepared by Tiny Elephant), and discuss important things.
WB hosts several book groups. If you have an idea for a book group, you can suggest it and they will work with you.
Now that you have done the hard work of reading all the facts about Watchung Booksellers, you get a treat; the photograph of their reading room, where you are welcome to leave your troubles behind (maybe with your granddaughter) and sink into the pleasure of dark books, funny books, graphic books, new books, old ones. You’ll be welcomed, as always, with a smile.