There’s something transformative about reading a hard copy of a book — the smell, the feeling of turning the pages, the magic of getting lost in the story. Independent bookstores seem to be dwindling these days, so we’re extra lucky to have one right here in Montclair. Located at 54 Fairfield Street in Montclair, Watchung Booksellers is a community indie bookstore that has been serving the community for over 30 years and is absolutely worth a visit. Plus, with Italian restaurant da Pepo connected to the store, it’s easy to turn a visit to Watchung Booksellers into a full outing. Read on to learn all about Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, New Jersey.
All About Watchung Booksellers
“For the love of books” the website reads — an aptly-named mission for this quaint indie bookstore nestled in Montclair. Upon walking in, guests are greeted with the earthy smell of books mixed with the pasta cooking next door at da Pepo. The walls are lined with wooden bookshelves, transforming the cozy space into a reader’s paradise.
The store was first opened in 1991 by Kathy Linsk at a different location. The original bookstore’s location could be found at 33 Watchung Plaza on the second floor above the old Bradner’s Pharmacy.
Separately, just a year later, Margot Sage-EL thought up + created Great Owl Books: Celebrating Our Many Voices, a mail-order catalog aimed at promoting multi-cultural children’s books. Margot took this spirit of celebrating diversity, and in 1996 — alongside Trina Rogers — bought Watchung Booksellers and became its new owners. Margot couldn’t leave Great Owl Books behind, of course, so she incorporated it into the bookstore and kept it going for a while.
In 2000, Margot became the sole owner of Watchung Booksellers — and soon after, in August 2001, she moved the shop to its current Fairfield location.
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Today, the bookstore continues to celebrate and include many diverse voices in keeping with the mission that began so many years ago. Even a simple glance at the Events Calendar for the month of November illustrates the range of authors and people from different backgrounds, all coming together to share their stories at this local bookstore.
The team also has a combined experience of over 70 years of bookselling — and even strives to read every book in the store, so there’s always someone on the team with some familiarity with any given text. Each book that’s on the shelf has been hand-selected by one of the book-loving staff members (with some input from readers, too), ultimately aiming to have the literature reflect the unique community in Montclair.
“We hope the selection challenges, nurtures and inspires you,” the website reads.
At Watchung Booksellers, readers can expect to find literary fiction; biographies; memories; and books that specialize in travel, education, poetry, and the arts. There’s also a children’s room with a Teen Corner to ensure everyone of all ages finds something perfect to read.
See More: Writers Who Have Lived in Montclair
We all know that the only thing better than reading an amazing book is getting to hear the author speak in person. Watchung Booksellers regularly features fun events, hosting authors + other creators for the local community to enjoy.
Upcoming events include It’s Not TV, Felix Gillette and John Koblin — two veteran media reporters who cover the inside story behind the start of HBO (November 9th); Toni Ann Johnson’s Light Skin Gone to Waste, an award-winning story collection (November 13th); and Sayantani Dasgupta’s Crown of Flames, a middle grade fantasy series (November 15th) — just to name a few.
You can follow along on the Events calendar to see upcoming happenings as well as register for these events.
Watchung Booksellers is open Monday-Friday from 10AM-7PM as well as Saturday + Sunday from 10AM to 5PM.