By Ali Solomon of Wiggle Room
One breezy fall Sunday, Jessica Staros found herself face-to-face with an institution she didn’t know still existed: a local bookstore.
The last brick-and-mortar store on the east coast, Barton’s Readery has been in business for over 75 years, started by husband-and-wife team George and Linda Barton. Nestled between a bank and another bank, Barton’s has been a permanent fixture among the ever-changing storefronts on Salisbury Avenue.
“It’s so great to have another place to read books for free,” Jessica said. “Our local library always has a wait list for popular titles, and also smells a bit like formaldehyde, so this bookstore is a step up.”
During her visit, Jessica took a selfie holding a copy of Rachael Ray’s new cookbook and posted it on Instagram, with the caption, “Finally, a chance to hold a real book again!” After copying down her favorite recipes and putting the book back on the shelf, she noticed her post was flooded with comments of support for this mom-and-pop mainstay, mostly from people who don’t live in the area.
Jessica made sure to visit the coffee shop connected to the bookstore and sat at a table for over two hours browsing magazines, none of which she ended up purchasing. Long-time resident Carol Lafferty, who currently mans Barton’s customer service desk, sees Jessica’s visit as a positive sign.
“We need to draw more young professionals, or parents looking for a cheap cultural outing with their kids. Once inside, our hope is that they’ll buy a Melissa & Doug puzzle, one of those pocket-sized moleskin journals, or even some overpriced chocolates we stock by the register.”
Ms. Lafferty hasn’t received a paycheck in almost five months but is confident that sales will turn around.
In the future, Jessica plans to bring her 4-year-old twins to the children’s section to play with the vast array of toys and dolls on display. She also wants to take advantage of some of the store’s programming designed to bring in new customers.
“It’s so great my kids get to meet famous children’s authors and get their books signed. We pre-ordered all the books on Amazon, because it’s cheaper.”
When asked if she thinks the bookstore will survive in today’s climate, Jessica seems uncertain.
“I love the idea of having a bookstore in my neighborhood. But we only have two UrgentCare centers within walking distance. I think we should focus on what’s best for the community.”
About the Author
Ali Solomon is a teacher and cartoonist living in Queens, New York with her husband, two daughters, and an insane amount of comic books. Her work can be seen on McSweeney’s, Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, and Belladonna, among others. Find more of her nonsense at Wiggle Room, on Facebook, or on Twitter at @Alicoaster.