Interview with a Bookstore: Farley’s Bookshop
A New Hope Icon Approaches 50
Farley’s Bookshop was founded in 1967 by Jim Farley in New Hope, PA which is about halfway between Philadelphia and New York City. Jim bought out a small bookshop that existed in town with a little help from James Michener and Fred Rogers (of Mr. Rogers fame). He and his wife Nancy built the shop into what it is today, a good-sized, eclectic, nooks and crannies bookshop for readers who love books. Jim and Nancy were both passionate readers who felt strongly about the power of a book. That tradition is continued today, and Farley’s will be celebrating 50 years of independent bookselling next July.
What's your favorite section of the store?
Charlie (bookseller): The science section. I like the mix of hard science with our large Dover collection, as well as the pop science. There’s stuff for people at every level. I love books about ideas.
Caitlyn (bookseller): Every section. It’s too hard to pick, and we have great stock in all the time!
If you had infinite space what would you add?
Julian (manager): More books.
Michael (returns manager): It’d be great to have a dedicated event space so we could host larger groups.
What do you do better than any other bookstore?
Kristina (bookseller): We know our customers. Building relationships over years, sometimes decades, is what we do best. We know what they want to read almost before they do.
William (bookseller): A favorite thing about this place is that we are good about playing soul music and making sure people have a good time, that there is always a recommendation ready to go with that.
Who's your favorite regular?
Charlie: Steve Rabinowitz is a regular who reads math books voraciously. You see him around town and say, Hi, how are you. He’s in every week, and his love for math is incredible.
Kristina: Paul and Lelia Matthews have been customers at the store for decades now. They’re both incredibly interesting people. He’s a painter; she’s an actress. When they find a book that they like they’ll purchase 20 copies and distribute them to their closest friends and family. Their enthusiasm for books is catching.
Michael: One of my favorite regulars is Sonja Irwin, who’s been a customer for years. She not only has great taste herself, but she’s always gifting books to others. It’s so rewarding to help her with specific recommendations because she’s so genuinely happy and grateful afterward. She’s usually got so many books that I walk them out to her car for her.
What’s the craziest situation you’ve ever had to deal with in the store?
William: We’re a tourist town, so we’ve really seen it all. Every walk of life, every situation…The craziest thing will always be the parent who, when their child stops at our front window and says, “Books,” yanks them away and says, “We’re going to the candy store. What do you need a book for?”
Julian: Apparently back in the 70s, a few years before I started, Hunter S Thompson came in and started throwing $5 bills behind the counter.
What’s your earliest/best memory about visiting a bookstore as a child?
Caitlyn: As a group, we realized that all but one of us grew up coming to Farley’s. This place has shaped all of us as readers, as people. There were always just stacks and stacks of books everywhere, and someone around to help you get something from the top shelf. It’s really special to work here after coming here for years.
If you weren’t running or working at a bookstore, what would you be doing?
Michael: I have no idea. All my attempts to do anything else have ended in abject failure. This is where I belong.
Caitlyn: Saving animals.
What’s been the biggest surprise about running a bookstore?
William: That there are others out there like you, as obsessed with books as you are, as crazy.
Caitlyn: Way too many people care about our cat than they do about reading. We love Butter, but the books are pretty good too.
Michael: I’m constantly surprised at what gets published. I guess there must be something out there for everyone, but some stuff is just…wow.
Kristina: It’s surprising to me how certain reviewers will constantly feature the same four publishers over and over again. There are tons of great publishers out there, lots of small presses, and they’re publishing fantastic authors and receiving very little attention over it. So we’re doing our best to bring in those small presses, feature those authors, and get the word out that there’s more to the publishing world than the select few big names.
SLIDESHOW: Farley’s Bookshop Staff Recommendations
Farley’s Bookshop is located at 44 S Main St in New Hope, Pennsylvania.