On Independent Bookstore Day, May 2, Kate Jacobs, Donna Garban and Emmanuelle Morgen plan to open Little City Books, a new, general-interest bookstore in Hoboken, N.J. The store will feature a substantial children's section, as well as literary fiction, memoir, history, local interest, cooking and art sections.
The idea to open a bookstore began with Garban and Jacobs, who are both long-time Hoboken residents. They met and became friends through their children, who went to school together in Hoboken, and over the years had "pipe-dreamed" about a new indie bookstore in Hoboken.
"We often lamented the lack of a wonderful, cool literary independent bookshop in town," explained Jacobs, who is the trio's unofficial spokeswoman. For a while, Hoboken had an indie called Blackwater Books, but that closed in 1999, after a Barnes & Noble moved in. When Garban and Jacobs were finally starting to accept B&N, Jacobs added, that store closed as well, in 2010. Although Hoboken does have a small used bookstore called Symposia, Jacobs and Garban felt that "there was room for a new, general-interest shop, and we thought it would be fun."
|Emmanuelle Morgen, Donna Garban and Kate Jacobs in the front window of Little City Books.
Neither Jacobs nor Garban have experience in bookselling--Garban has a background in finance, while Jacobs is a musician. Then the pair met Emmanuelle Morgen, a literary agent at Stonesong and fellow Hoboken resident, through Elena Skye, the owner of Blackwater Books, and Morgen's "wonderful optimism and publishing industry experience" gave Jacobs and Garban the impetus to jump.
"None of us has run a bookstore but we have nicely complementary skills that we hope will serve us well," said Jacobs. They're unsure of how large their initial staff will be, but the trio plans to hire a manager with a great deal of experience in running a bookstore day-to-day. "All the booksellers we've met in our region, and at the ABA Winter Institute, as well as the distribution and publishing reps, have been very helpful and forthcoming with advice," Jacobs said. "We're immensely grateful to them all."
With opening day two months away, the three women are in the midst of renovating their 1,200-square-foot storefront at 100 Bloomfield Street at 1st Street in Hoboken and ordering inventory. According to Jacobs, the space doesn't need much work--they're adding a new bathroom, putting in hardwood floors and, most importantly, installing bookshelves, which they purchased from a bookstore in the Philadelphia area that is consolidating from two locations to one. They expect to stock some 5,000 titles at opening, along with a smattering of sidelines including stationery, cards, journals, reading-related children's toys and reading glasses.
Jacobs, Morgen and Garban are also hard at work lining up partnerships with local schools and other community organizations. They hope to host book fairs, supply teachers with books, bring in authors and develop literacy support programs for Hoboken schools, and collaborate with local businesses for events.
"All three of us are devoted Hoboken residents and want to create a place that is a true asset to the community," remarked Jacobs. "We hope to be a cultural center in Hoboken, with programming that includes readings, live music, poetry, theater, lectures and conversations, and local art on the walls."
The store is just a few blocks away from Hoboken Terminal, through which "tens of thousands" of commuters travel every day. The trio plans to eventually have a mobile book cart parked at the terminal, and they'd like to have similar carts at Hoboken's farmer's markets and parks. Once the store is established and running smoothly, they'd also like to open a store in northern Hoboken. Although there are no immediate plans for any kind of cafe or food service, they are willing to add something like that if the need arises.
According to Jacobs, the Hoboken community's enthusiasm for the bookstore "couldn't be higher. The mayor mentioned us in the first few minutes of her State of the City address last week as an example of great things happening in Hoboken."
If they have a certificate of occupancy by April 23, the store will celebrate Shakespeare's birthday with a group that includes local fifth graders. Beyond that, they've already invited Hoboken's mayor for a ribbon cutting on May 2. Commented Jacobs: "Expect bunting." --Alex Mutter