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The Little Independent that Can: Clinton Book Shop

By M. D. Caprario

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The Clinton Book Shop, a small-town indie book seller  “institution,” moved recently from its original location at 33 Main Street to 12 East Main.  Grand opening events took place on May 14th and included a dedication and author book signing by Emily St. John Mandel (The Singer's Gun/Unbridled Books).

Clinton Book Shop sign affixed to old location

The shop has been situated for some 35 years in the original location near to the picturesque iron bridge that spans the town’s babbling-brook river, and to the lovely Hunterdon County museum building.  7-year owner Harvey Finkel determined it was time to make a change.

Clinton Book Shop manager Rob Dougherty gives final book moving instructions to the crew of volunteers

And change, he did, enlisting the unsolicited help offered by neighbors and other fans (from far and wide) of this very special independent book seller.  On Mother’s Day morning, May 9th, the Clinton Book Shop team and others finalized the movement of books by way of a “bucket brigade.”  After enjoying bagels and juice thoughtfully provided by the local sub shop (more on that later), volunteers formed a human chain from the old store’s location, across one intersection, and to the next location, and moved the remaining books by passing stacks by hand.  The children brought books to the new location in wagons. 

Book lovers of all ages assisted in moving the books from the old Clinto Book Shop location to the new one at 12 East Main Street

The gathering of readers, writers, and book store lovers created a wonderful community event that has fostered some new friendships while also spreading the news about the move and what it means for patrons of the store and the book-loving members of the community of Clinton.

Clinton Book Shop Manager Rob Dougherty addresses the crowd of helpers

The new location offers greater visibility and, not one but, two entrances- one on East Main Street that best accommodates foot traffic and another off Route 173 that boasts six dedicated off-street parking spaces.

In what I like to describe as one of those “wonderful, synchronous occurrences,” this charming building with quaint window treatments and decorative cast iron façade at one time housed the town’s first library, the Grandin Library.  Built in 1898, this new home for the Clinton Book Shop is an historic site and listed on the National and New Jersey historic registers. 

The new shop location will occupy the first floor of the building, or about 1,400 square feet.  With multiple rooms, the sales area should have a really quaint feel to it.  The back room, facing Route 173 and the designated children’s section, even includes a decorative sign reading “Dream.”  I can’t think of a better way to set a tone for a place where people can come and be filled with knowledge and inspiration, and to be amongst a family of book-loving people.

Clinton pride is evident in every aspect of this neat, clean and welcoming community

Clinton is known for the special camaraderie and working together of its business owners.  When flood waters struck not too long ago, and the local sub shop got hit particularly hard with water damage, it was the book shop and its team that led an effort to raise funds for renovations for their neighbor.  I have got to say, it brings tears to my eyes to think that, in this day of dog-eat-dog, Internet- and Walmart-ish, cut-throat selling practices, this kind of neighborly kindness still exists. 

Clinton is one of Hunterdon County's most beautiful spots- as can be seen by this mill not more than a couple of blocks from the Clinton Book Shop- great place to sit and read a book whilst enjoying a cuppa from a local spot

Speaking of tears, one of the best moments of the day on Sunday was when all of the books were moved and Finkel proceeded down the street with the sign from the shop, placed it in front of the new location and addressed the group of volunteers and expressed his thanks. 

Clinton Book Shop owner Harvey Finkel stands in front of new location at 12 East Maint Street and displays the sign moved from the old shop

“I want to thank everyone for being here today,” Finkel said.  “I don’t know what to say, but I think I’m going to cry.”  I don’t know about anyone else gathered there that day, but a lump developed in my throat thinking about what all had just occurred- and where, with the help of community, this little book shop that definitely CAN might be able to take not only its business but its service and outreach in the future.

For information about upcoming author events, please visit the shop's web site at www.clintonbookshop.com.

© May 2010 M.D. Caprario photos and text

M. D. Caprario is an author, editor and journalist covering for the media all good things in the book, film and entertainment worlds.  Reach her at [email protected].


Published on Dec 31, 1969

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