Womrath’s: Celebrating 60 years of Indie Bookselling

***You are invited to come celebrate with us on Saturday, November 7th, noon-3 p.m., when we throw a huge 60th Anniversary Bash for Womrath’s Bookstore in Tenafly, NJ.  A portion of the proceeds will go to the Sgt. Harry Fund, helping disabled veterans achieve a better life…So you can start your holiday shopping, support a great indie bookstore, and help wounded vets! ***

On the final day of World War II, Sgt. Harry Kutik was shot 13 times and left on the battlefield.  But this wasn’t the end of his life, it was the beginning of new challenges, and of his remarkable independent bookstore: Womrath’s.  Sixty years later, Kutik’s family has a proud legacy of quality bookselling and service, all because one courageous man never let anything hold him back. And now, everyone is invited to celebrate when The Philly Liars Club throws its special 60th Anniversary Bash for Womrath’s Bookstore on Saturday, November 7th from noon-3 p.m. at the store located at 12 Washington Street in Tenafly.  The free party includes munchies, trivia games, a host of authors, and prizes and giveaways including signed books and book bags.

Sgt. Harry Kutik, 1942

Sgt. Harry Kutik, 1942

As some of you may already know, the Philly Liars Club, of which I’m a member, is a group of professional writers who basically lie for a living. The Womrath’s bash is part of our “Truth Tour,” a series of parties celebrating independent bookstores. At the Womrath’s party, you can hang out with Bram Stoker award-winner Jonathan Maberry (Patient Zero, St. Martin’s), fantasy author Gregory Frost (Shadowbridge, and Lord Tophet, Del Rey/Random House), young adult novelist Marie Lamba…that’s me… (What I Meant…, Random House), crime author Dennis Tafoya (Dope Thief, St. Martin’s), mystery writer Jon McGoran who writes as D.H. Dublin (Freezer Burn, Berkley), historical author Keith Strunk (Prallsville Mills and Stockton, Arcadia Publishing Images of America Series), novelist Kelly Simmons (Standing Still, Washington Square Press/Simon and Schuster), mystery author Merry Jones (The Borrowed and Blue Murders, Minotaur Books), renowned Poe scholar Ed Pettit, and social media marketing consultant, writer and lecturer Don Lafferty.

“There’s an alarming trend of independent bookstores being squeezed out by chains and online retailers,” says author Merry Jones.  “This is something we can reverse. If we love an indie, we have to show our support by going to them first when we want a gift card, or a holiday present, or visiting their online site when we want to order books that way.”

I completely agree. In a world that is increasingly generic, where chain bookstores are the same everywhere, and where nobody knows your name, independent bookstores are a haven for any book lover. They are filled with handpicked books, with a staff that knows their titles, and, above all, with personality. This is especially true at Womrath’s Bookstore, where the indomitable spirit of Sgt. Harry Kutik lives on.

Sgt. Harry Kutik, 1948

Sgt. Harry Kutik, 1948

Even though Sgt. Kutik’s war wounds kept him in the hospital for years, and his injuries left him a paraplegic, his will was strong, and his will to help even stronger. “My father was outgoing and optimistic,” says Bob Kutik, who, along with his wife Sheila, now owns the store. “He wouldn’t let anything stop him, and there wasn’t a mean bone in his body. Plus he would never say no to someone in need. He was quite an inspiration.”

Shortly after the war, Sgt. Kutik’s cheerful and independent spirit caught the attention of a disabled veterans group called the 52 Week Club. They selected him for a pilot program aimed at finding businesses that disabled vets could run themselves, a fairly revolutionary idea in the 1940’s.  The group approached Womrath’s, which at the time was a franchise with more than 37 branches. The company agreed to open a branch with Kutik at the helm. The store was designed with aisles wide enough for Harry’s wheelchair, and shelves low enough for him to reach.

For many years, Sgt. Kutik operated successfully, guided by his philosophy of exceeding a customer’s expectations. Twelve years ago, Sgt. Kutik passed away. The business, originally in Hackensack, relocated to Tenafly in 2001, but Sgt. Kutik’s legacy lives on, and to this day, Womrath’s continuously strives to exceed a customer’s expectations.

“Womrath’s Bookstore offers everything the competition does, plus more,” says author Gregory Frost.  He points out that by stopping in, calling the store or visiting http://www.womraths.com, you can order any title quickly, whether the store stocks it or not. They even will ship orders. For unsure gift-givers, the store sells gift certificates. And repeat customers can enjoy a preferred readers club, earning points toward a $10 coupon. “Best of all, by ordering through Womrath’s you are benefiting a local business. One that offers a unique shopping experience, and that showcases titles you won’t find in any of those megastores.”

“I went into the business because, like my father, I wanted to help people the best way I knew how,” says Kutik.  “The right book can change a life, and I can put that book in someone’s hand.”  Every title on their shelves is hand-selected by the staff, based on the tastes of its customers. In addition to general titles, the store has also carries plenty of local interest books, and greeting cards depicting local scenes by area artists and photographers. And for shoppers who aren’t sure which book to buy next, the knowledgeable staff has over 50 years of bookselling experience, plus they read over 300 books a year, meaning that they can personally recommend a vast array of books to their customers.

Womraths Bookstore in Tenafly...an amazing indie!

Womrath's Bookstore in Tenafly...an amazing indie!

After years of high quality service, this bookstore truly has a lot to celebrate. Imagining what Sgt. Kutik would think of Womrath’s 60th anniversary celebration, Bob Kutik says, “I think that my father would have a big smile on his face. He’d be so proud that the work he started has lived on, and that we tried to continue it his way, serving the community in a friendly and helpful manner. For me, that’s what it’s all about.”

“You can see that independent bookstores are so much more than shops,” says author Jon McGoran.  “They are the heart and soul of a community.  We members of the Philly Liars Club hope everyone feels the same and joins us at this bash to show how strongly we all support this local gem. It’s going to be a great party – no lie.”

For more information, or to reserve a copy of an author’s book before the event, call Womrath’s Bookstore at 201-568-8857.

Clinton Book Shop is one Cool Independent

We lie for a living...

We lie for a living...

I’m lucky enough to be a member of  the Philly Liar’s Club, a group of 13 professional writers who basically lie for a living. And together we are on a “Truth Tour,” which means we throw parties for independent bookstores, spreading the word about what makes each store so important to our communities.

The really great part about this is that I get to interview bookstore staff and hear all this cool stuff about the shops and what they’re doing. For example, our next stop is at Clinton Book Shop in Clinton, NJ, June 20th from 1-3 p.m.  The store is located at 33 Main Street in Clinton, NJ, and it is way cool. For starters, it is the only dog-friendly bookstore in the state! So anyone can bring in their pooch and browse. They even have dog treats at the counter. My evil poodle would love that. Too bad she gets car sick…

At our free event, “Liars Tell the Truth about Clinton Book Shop,” anyone (including dogs) can come in, nibble on free goodies (there will be stuff for humans, I promise), hang out with the authors, and play Truth or Lie trivia games for tons of prizes including book bags and signed books. There will even be a story time for kids, featuring an original picture book manuscript read by author Keith Strunk.

So who will you get to meet? There’s me, (signing my young adult novel What I Meant…, Random House), Bram Stoker award-winner Jonathan Maberry (Patient Zero, St. Martin’s),  debut crime novelist Dennis Tafoya (Dope Thief, St. Martin’s), mystery author Jon McGoran who writes as D.H. Dublin (Freezer Burn, Berkley), historical authorKeith Strunk (Prallsville Mills and Stockton, Arcadia Publishing Images of America Series),  and social media guru Donald Lafferty.

One thing I learned about Clinton Book Shop is that even though it is small and cozy, purchases there aren’t limited to its excellent collection on its shelves. You can get any book from them by stopping in, calling the store or going to www.clintonbookshop.com.  Special orders usually arrive within two days. Best of all, by ordering through them you are benefiting a local business, one that offers a unique shopping experience, and that showcases titles you won’t find in any of those megastores.

Clinton Book Shop manager Rob Dougherty agrees. “We understand that we’re a part of a small town and community. We understand the people that come here and we work hard to meet their needs.” That translates into carrying titles of special interest to patrons. Also, the staff prides itself on knowing its stock inside and out, and that’s why they are especially skilled at recommending books to customers looking for their next read. “I’ve never seen a single customer come back to complain that they didn’t enjoy a book that our staff had hand sold them,” Dougherty says. “That is saying something.” 

Other ways the staff caters to its customers includes a loyalty shopper’s discount card, hosting book clubs including “The Politically Incorrect Book Club,” and an array of exciting literary events, including the upcoming nationwide book launch of author Maryann McFadden’s newest novel So Happy Together (Hyperion) on July 7th.

The bookstore is so connected to the community because for owner Harvey Finkel, Clinton is home.  Finkel, a long-time area resident, has served as a board member of Habitat for Humanity, and, through the store, he has supported local and private schools and contributed to regional non-profits. He is also a founding member of “Hunterdon First,” a newly formed non-profit supporting independently owned and operated businesses throughout the county.  His own store’s entire philosophy is focused on benefiting his community. “That’s why it is so important to buy books from a local independent bookstore,” says Donald Lafferty, a social media guru who specializes in networking. “It’s like one big network. You spend your dollars at the Clinton Book Shop, and your money stays in this community. It’s all connected, and it truly makes a difference right where you live.”

Clinton Book Shop customers are understandably loyal – something that Dougherty especially appreciates. “It’s so cool when customers know what kind of coffee you drink and they bring it for you. And support from our customers during these tough economic times has been great. It means a lot.”

“This town’s unique architecture and independently owned stores are what give Clinton its authentic small-town charm,” says historic author Keith Strunk. “I can’t imagine a place like this filled with chain stores. We hope everyone feels the same and comes to our Liar’s Club party to show the Clinton Book Shop how strongly they support this local gem. It’s going to be a really fun celebration – honest!”

For more information, or to reserve a copy of an author’s book before the June 20th event, call the Clinton Book Shop at 908-735-8811.  I hope to see you there.  And if you don’t live in the area, you can still show your support by buying your next book from your local independent bookstore. Go ahead. Do it now!