Wanted: Indie Bookstore in Trenton, N.J.

The city of Trenton, N.J., is partnering with the Trenton Downtown Association and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority "to offer financial incentives for an independent bookstore willing to set up shop in the city's downtown area," Bookselling This Week reported.

Trenton hired Eric Maywar, owner of the used bookstore Classics Books & Gifts and previously a project manager for the Trenton Downtown Association, as an economic development specialist "to scout out the best businesses in the region and explore whether they would be interested in opening an additional location in a new market," BTW wrote.

"We didn't know exactly what [kinds of businesses] we wanted, but we wanted to make sure that it wasn't just three people at City Hall making the decisions, so we did outreach into the community, both the people that live here and the people that work here, and asked them what they would like to see," he said. "We visited community groups and we had an online survey, which the local paper wrote about so that people would go on there and we could hear from a lot of different people."

The survey showed that what people wanted most was 1) a high-end bakery and 2) an independent bookstore that sells new books. "People we talked to were very excited that there would be new places they could shop here in the city. I think there's definitely a demand here on the consumer side to shop locally," said Maywar. "Part of it is there's a desire in the city to spend locally and keep that money here, where it can create jobs."

Thus far, two candidates have expressed interest in opening a bookstore and six have expressed interest in opening a bakery, he added. "We made a list of all the bookstores that were well-regarded within an hour's drive and started reaching out to them, giving them the demographics, selling them on the incentive package we put together, and giving them some periodic updates about new folks coming in and activity going on in the area."

Maywar noted that it would be ideal to hear from existing indie bookstores seeking to open a second spot or to relocate: "It's always great to have somebody that has a brand, that already understands how the business works, that has cut their teeth on customers, that understands how to make sure they have the proper inventory. Having somebody with that experience is always a good place to start."

Booksellers interested in learning more can contact Maywar at emaywar@trentonnj.org.

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