Can you have a Jersey Shore town without a bookstore? Patrick Young doesn’t think so.
“I’ve been coming to Cape May since I’ve been a little kid, and there’s always been a bookstore,” says Young, who lives in North Wildwood. “You always hit Atlantic Books before you went to the beach.”
But as of last fall, that tradition was in danger.
Atlantic Books, which was a local chain of bookstores in N.J. and Pa., including almost every South Jersey Shore town, closed. They said they were victims of changes in retail bookselling, the same changes that closed Borders, too: online bookstores selling at deep discounts, the popularity of e-readers. People weren’t buying in stores anymore.
But Young believes they will here, which is why he and his partner, Tony Herr, who was the manager of Cape May’s Atlantic Books, are opening the Cape Atlantic Book Company this summer. If everything goes according to plan, they’ll be open by Memorial Day weekend in a space at the City Centre Mall on the Washington Street Mall, sharing the second floor with a new cafe.
In Stone Harbor, too, a bookstore has already filled in where Atlantic left — literally. The Stone Harbor Book Shop moved into the former Atlantic Book space. They opened in October, essentially opening doors with books on the shelves, and they’ve been adding stock and sprucing up the space since.
Young thinks a bookstore in a small town in Cape May can buck the retail trend. “The larger chains of bookstores are just dropping all over the place,” he says “But a bookstore can work in Cape May. It’s a totally different animal. It’s a boutique city.”
I see what he means. I was in Cape May this winter without a book to read. I wasn’t going to order one and have it delivered to my hotel room. I wanted to buy a book, and my only real option was the paperback rack at CVS.
It’s worked in Ocean City, where Sun Rose Words and Music is a popular independent bookstore that’s open year round. Why not Cape May and Stone Harbor?