Interview with a Bookstore: WORD
WORD Brooklyn opened March 14, 2007 and WORD Jersey City opened December 14, 2013. Christine Onorati owns both of our stores. She worked in publishing after college and her first bookstore was called The Dog-Eared Bookshop in Northport, NY. Having worked in her father’s stationery stores most of her younger years, she felt like retail was in her blood, so bookselling seemed an obvious choice. When she moved to Greenpoint, she closed Dog-Eared and opened up WORD. Seven years later, people kept asking when she’d open up another store, and friends and family pointed her towards Jersey City. So here we are!
What's your favorite section of the store?
We’re a general bookstore so we try to carry a bit of something for everyone, though literary fiction is probably our backbone. As the buyer for both stores, Christine tries to make sure that we have books we know our customers will want, as well as some things that will surprise them. For that reason, she loves buying books for the gift, entertainment and art sections, things that someone wouldn’t know they needed or wanted until they came in and saw it. Thankfully we have wonderful, smart employees with such varied taste that if you asked each one, they’d name a different section that was their favorite.
If you had infinite space, what would you add?
More space for cards and stationery, more display tables, more room for kids to peruse picture books, and more space to display some of those diamonds in the rough that our readers might not find otherwise.
What do you do better than any other bookstore?
We don’t judge. We have widely varied tastes, and know that our customers do as well. We just want to create a place where readers can come and feel welcome and comfortable and enjoy being around other readers. Pretension has no place in our stores. We truly love what we do, and we are more than happy to share that enthusiasm with any reader who will listen. Helping someone find their next favorite book or a perfect gift is what we love most.
Who is your favorite regular?
Yikes, we have way too many to name. We’ve got regulars who we’ve seen grow from babies to toddlers to teenagers. Each staff member has regulars who come back to find them for new recommendations week after week. And we even have canine regulars. Maybe THOSE are are our favorites. Snitches! No, Henry. No, Trouser! Or Elsa! There’s no way to choose.
What’s your earliest memory of visiting a bookstore as a child?
Emily (Bookseller): My mom helped to open a store when I was in 2nd grade, and I loved visiting her there more than anything else. They had a big fluffy white cat and a reading nook stuffed with teddy bears to snuggle with while you read. My mom introduced me to Roald Dahl’s Matilda, and now I have her tattooed on my arm.
If you weren't working in a bookstore, what would you be doing?
Christine (Owner): I’d probably still be in books somehow, either in publishing or maybe as a sales rep working with buyers like herself. Or maybe she’d be a therapist, she loves helping people work out their problems (which can come in very handy when helping people select books as well).
What’s been your biggest surprise about working in a bookstore?
Running a bookstore today takes an incredible amount of work and creative energy. Just renting a space and putting books on a shelf is not enough, there’s too much competition today to make that a viable business. So we work hard to hire great staff and figure out how to sell books beyond our four walls. We sell books far and wide at private events and readings and conferences and huge literary conventions. We work with schools on their book fairs and bring authors to speak to their classes. We work with corporations and run holiday book drives and set up tables at fairs and markets and just never stop thinking about how to keep the business running and thriving. It’s exhausting, but when it works, it’s the perfect blend of being able to run a business doing what we love, and that’s working with readers and selling books.
SLIDESHOW: WORD Staff Recommendations