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From Burgers to Books: WORD Is a “Second Home” in Jersey City

In the book trade, “hand selling” refers to the practice of promoting books by personal recommendation — literally, handing a customer a book and saying, “I think you’ll like this.” This is exactly the kind of promotion that WORD, an independent bookstore with locations in downtown Jersey City and Brooklyn, excels at.

WORD, located within walking distance of Vantage on the Newark Avenue pedestrian plaza, has become much more than a place to buy books in the nearly five years since its Jersey City opening. With multiple weekly events, from the expected (author signings and readings, book club meetings) to the unexpected (“Drag Queen Story Hour,” a book group for fans of Gilmore Girls), it has grown into “a communal gathering place for people going to and from school or work, or just looking for something to do during the day,” says Hannah Oliver Depp, WORD’s communications manager. During the snowstorms this past winter, she adds, many people stopped in “just to keep from going stir crazy.”
Creating this sort of welcoming atmosphere was the idea from the very beginning. WORD’s location, just steps from the Grove Street PATH station on the site of an abandoned Burger King, “seemed ripe for a great communal gathering place,” Oliver Depp says. In addition to events, WORD also has a cafe serving sandwiches, salads, pastries, and Stumptown coffee drinks.

If coffee and muffins don’t get people in the door, WORD’s carefully-curated author events surely will. Junot Díaz, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, is dropping by on April 14th to sign copies of his first children’s book, Islandborn. Children’s horror novelist R.L. Stine has signed books here, as has memoirist Helene Stapinski, a Jersey City native. Elizabeth Gilbert’s reading sold out, while Stephen King’s had to be held at the cavernous Loew’s Jersey Theatre at Journal Square. Jersey City resident Jessie Sima, the author/illustrator of the acclaimed children’s book Not Quite Narwhal, recently held two Storytime events at WORD for her newest book, Harriet Gets Carried Away.

Sima may not be a household name, but Not Quite Narwhal was one of WORD’s top sellers of all time, Oliver Depp says. Other current popular books include This Will Be My Undoing, by Morgan Jenkins; a children’s biography series called Little Leaders; and Sima’s Harriet book. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of these tomes — that’s what an independent bookstore is all about, says Oliver Depp: “You get to choose what’s on your shelves.”

And that’s not even Oliver Depp’s favorite part of working for WORD. “The best thing about working here is helping people find books they wouldn’t find otherwise,” she says, “that book that could change their life, or distract their kid a little bit, or just become a new favorite piece of reading. In a crazy world, it’s so wonderful to find something that’s entertaining and helps you grow — a safe book to lose yourself in.”

“People come in here, not knowing what they want, and I get to recommend a book to them,” Oliver Depp concludes. “Hands down, that is the best part of my day.”

WORD Bookstore is just one of the many dining, entertainment and shops and services available minutes from Vantage, which lies at 33 Park View Avenue in Liberty Harbor North. The location near a variety of unique and contemporary local businesses is a main reason living in Paulus Hook is so special. Developed by Fisher Development Associates, apartments for rent at the 45-story Jersey City building boast spacious interiors and magnificent views of the Hudson River and Statue of Liberty. Vantage features 448 high end apartments with apartment services such as a 24-hour concierge and world-class recreational and social amenities.

WORD Jersey City

123 Newark Ave., Jersey City, NJ 07302

Store Hours: 8AM-9PM Every Day