THE TOWN BOOK STORE
~ Satisfying Book Lovers Since 1934 ~
History of The Town Book Store
The year was 1934: America was in the midst of “The Great Depression,” Good Bye, Mr. Chips topped the bestseller lists, and paperback books were still on the horizon when The Town Book Store opened its doors on East Broad Street in Westfield. Today, Amazon dominates the retail landscape and books can be read digitally. But through all the challenges the past 8 plus decades have thrown at us, The Town Book Store is still going strong in downtown Westfield.
On September 4th, we will celebrate 85 years of good, old-fashioned bookselling here in Westfield. One of the last two independent bookstore in all of Union County, TBS has been serving Westfield and neighboring communities for 85 years, seven owners and two locations.
In today’s rapidly changing retail environment, we remain one constant where shoppers can find a first-rate literary selection with friendly, personalized service in an attractive, convenient setting. For this little store to have been able to hold on for this long is truly a testimony to the loyal customers who have supported us for so many years.
According to the original business ledgers on display in the shop, TBS first opened its doors on September 4, 1934. After operating from the same address for 72 years, we relocated across the street in 2007 to 270 E. Broad Street, the site of Westfield’s first library (see our website for the history of our building). This location at the eastern gateway to Westfield’s downtown offered easier parking, ample window space and greater visibility for the store.
Though modest in size, TBS's inventory is well-edited and caters to the interests of our customers. Individualized services like fast turnaround on special orders, friendly, helpful staff, author signings, out-of-print book searches, book club discounts, and free gift wrapping are part of the shop’s appeal. And while occasional blockbusters like the Harry Potter series have been a boon to struggling booksellers, it is avid readers and parents with young children who have been our mainstay throughout the years.
History of Westfield's First Library Building
The Westfield Library has its roots in the Every Saturday Book Club which started way back in 1873. At that time, women got together to discuss books, as they still do today. Their books were collected and made available to those who could afford to purchase a library card. The library moved from place to place as space in downtown businesses was rented or donated by local residents.
In the latter part of the 19th century, the public library movement began to grow. People believed that libraries could be forces for moral good and should be open to all. In fact, in a 1905 speech promoting the establishment of the Westfield Library, Westfield resident and Library Trustee Salter S. Clark claimed that Westfield would be better off spending its tax dollars on a library rather than an additional policeman because the moral benefit that a library could bring would be far greater than that of a policeman.
Philanthropist and steel magnate Andrew Carnegie also believed very strongly in the good that public libraries could bring. Largely self-educated, he had benefited from using a Pittsburgh library on his way to becoming one of the richest men in the world. He was an advocate of democracy and capitalism and favored â€œLet There Be Lightâ€? over the doorways of library buildings. Carnegie funded a huge grant program that resulted in over 2500 library buildings libraries across the English-speaking world from 1898 to 1917.
Westfield applied for a $10,000 Carnegie grant in 1905. Westfield voters, all men at the time, had to vote to agree to support the library with $1000 of tax revenue per year. Fortunately, a majority of men supported the ladies' movement, the grant was awarded, and the original Carnegie library was completed in 1906. An architectural treasure and true Westfield landmark, an addition to the original building now houses The Town Book Store. Look carefully on the Elmer Street side and you will see the author's name "Hawthorne" over one of the windows. That is a hint to the building's rich past. No doubt the members of the Every Saturday Book Club are smiling down on the many Westfield book lovers, and the building, which are their legacy.