PHOTOS: Word Bookstore Ribbon Cutting

 Ribbon Cutting Word
Independent community bookstore, WORD, (123 Newark Ave.) celebrated their grand opening with a ceremony and ribbon cutting on Friday, February 28. JCI had an opportunity to chat with owner Christine Onorati about Jersey City’s thriving arts community, the importance of bookstores, and what makes WORD unique.

JCI: What do you like about Jersey City?

CO: Jersey City is diverse and thriving. The people who live here feel great pride in their community and one of the reasons I opened another location here is because I knew how much the people who live here like to shop here too. It has a small town feel in the middle of a big city, and that’s what I loved about Greenpoint, where I opened my first store. It’s a perfect match for a neighborhood bookstore.

JCI: What is the role of the bookstore in a thriving arts community? (Or any community, for that matter…)

CO: Bookstores are community hubs where people can come together and just exist. They know they are with people who have similar interests and I think in this day and age when so much of our lives are lived online, it’s refreshing to be somewhere where you feel comfortable and know that interesting things like author talks and book clubs happen. People crave that connection with fellow book lovers and I think we’ve seen it proven in JC that the community is excited to have a place like ours to visit.

JCI: What kinds of events are important to WORD?

CO: Events are the lifeline of an indie bookstore, I think, and that’s why our programming ranges from small intimate poetry readings to large celebrity appearances. We also love presenting events for kids, with or without authors, and coordinating book groups of all kinds. And thankfully so far the community has responded so favorably to our events and supported us that I think we’re going to continue to do great things together.

JCI: WORD has unique features that we haven’t seen from other book stores – like the walk up cafe window and the book subscription. Could you tell us a little bit about those things and why they’re a part of Word’s success?

CO: The walk up window came out of the old Burger King that was in our space. I wanted to preserve some of the quirks like the menu board (which we still have in the basement, hoping to get working somewhere one day) and the walk up window seemed like a perfect place to sell coffee to commuters without having to open the whole store. One of my favorite cafes in Brooklyn has a similar window and I know how much I loved stopping by for coffee when I was out walking with my young son in his stroller. Also, with the cafe in JC, we knew the window would be a great alternative for our customers who like to walk with their dogs. So far it’s been a great hit, and I expect it to get much busier if/when the weather ever improves.

Our subscription program was started years back when one of our customers asked me to customize a book-a-month for her new niece, and it’s grown from there. It’s one of the programs we love getting new subscriptions for. And most people who have received the subscription as a gift wind up buying it for a gift themselves, so we know it’s a great product that builds loyalty to our store.

For more information about WORD, check out their website at wordbookstores.com.

Photos by Mickey Mathis

Mel Kozakiewicz

is a writer, performer, and professor. She lives in the Heights section of Jersey City and she is a former editor for Jersey City Independent.