When I first heard the news, the only word (pun intended, just in case I was too subtle) I can use to describe the feeling, is jubilation. But even that seems like an understatement. In early January, Greenpoint, Brooklyn based WORD Bookstore posted a photo on tumblr of an empty storefront we walk by everyday, just a few steps from the GROVE PATH station, across the street from Tendershoots, our local greengrocer, and right next door to Roman Nose (amazing meatballs!) with just a few simple words: “New year. New WORD. Coming to Jersey City. 2013.”
And that was enough to get me and Sona into a frenzy. Our 3-year-old daughter absolutely loves the bookstore, where we take her quite frequently – what can we say, we’re a nerdo family. She’s also a massive fan of the family owned and run, Roman Nose, where she often insists on walking into just for their pastina soup. Not too long ago, she walked into there and asked for soup with star pasta, which they had no idea what it was, until they noticed their pastina was in fact shaped like stars! It’s definitely become our joint. So it was quite a super fun-fact for us to find out that the whole idea of bringing WORD to Jersey City was in part because of brothers Frank and Raymond Fiore, who own Roman Nose, and are cousins of Christina Onorati, the owner of WORD! Apparently, she popped down for a visit, and thought, Jersey City. Good place for a community bookstore. And that was that. She decided to open the Jersey City branch!
It’s difficult to convey the feeling of excitement we feel everytime we walk by the still boarded up storefront, and every so often, we see the lights on, sounds of construction going on, and just the other day, we saw from a tiny corner of the door that there were book racks, with BOOKS, and a counter. Everyone who knows us, knows that we are absolutely mental about books. When we were in India, we visited Sona’s cousin in Bombay, and had big plans to go exploring the City. We’d left at 9 in the morning, went into a bookshop called “Crosswords” next door, and didn’t get out until 8pm that night. Then we ate kebabs, and caught a Bollywood show, and later curled up with all of our awesome books that we then had to lug around. It’s a bit of an awkward conversation when someone just doesn’t understand the difference between a Barnes and Noble and an independent bookstore like McNally Jackson, or the Strand. I quite like Barnes and Noble in terms of its selection, its layout, its seating areas, and many of its events. But there’s nothing particularly community building about it. Strand, for example, has these lovely notes from their employees on books they recommend that are handwritten endorsements, and McNally Jackson will go out of its way to support local bookclubs and local authors. WORD does all of that, and pushes the fostering of the local community even further through some really lovely programs. They actively help out their local soup kitchen in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and participate in “Story Pirate,” which encourages children to write stories, which will then come alive and acted out by professional actors. I’ve already got my peg-leg and eye patch sorted. I also got one for my 3-year-old daughter, Kavya.
Of course I would be excited if a big chain store was coming down the street. They’re still books. But an Independent Bookshop is really something else entirely. Can’t wait for these elves to finish up! In the meantime, there’s always something called the “G” train to Greenpoint. I’m not sure I’ll be able to last until summer, so a trip may be in order.