Not many. While Jersey City is the third largest city in the state, it is woefully bereft of general-interest bookstores, with a small indy store called the Book Room on Grove Street having closed five months ago.
The B. Dalton Bookstore in Newport Mall is the only bookstore in Jersey City that is part of a major chain. Waldenbooks was located on the second floor until it closed in 2001. In the 1980s, Coles Bookstore (part of the Canadian-based Coles Bookstore chain) was located in Hudson Mall.
A search for bookstores in the yellow pages lists seven locations, two of which specialize in African-American books and four of which are religious bookstores. The other is B. Dalton.
The city also boasts bookstores for the three colleges (Hudson County Community College, New Jersey City University and St. Peter's College), the perennial Sunday sale at the Grace Church Van Vorst, and even the Salvation Army Thrift Stores.
But where are the chains, or general-interest indy booksellers?The last independent
The last independent bookstore that existed in Jersey City was the Book Room on Grove Street near the PATH station. The store closed its doors in December 2003 when the proprietor decided to retire to Florida.
Downtown resident Carol Von Houten, who currently works as a librarian at the Bank Street College in New York City, was a regular customer at the Book Room from its opening in 2000 to 2003.
"It happened pretty fast, but used bookstores, they live on such a small thread," said Von Houten.
Von Houten has thought about opening a bookstore of her own in Jersey City based on her experience working at a Borders, but she noted that most people she knows do their shopping in Manhattan.
Earl Cunningham Jr., a longtime Jersey City resident who was browsing for a book at the Black Horizon book kiosk in Hudson Mall last week, said that there is need for a bookstore in Jersey City.
"A lot of people want to raise their consciousness. I think it's a good thing when you have a bookstore," said Cunningham, who estimates that he has bought at least five books from Black Horizon (which specializes in African-American books) since it opened.
What does it take to get a bookstore?
Emily Swann, a spokesperson from the Borders Group, Inc. based in Ann Arbor, Mich., said last week that a number of criteria are explored when looking for a location, such demographics, location, available parking, and general attractiveness. There are over 450 Borders stores in the United States with 17 stores in New Jersey, but none in any of New Jersey's largest cities (Jersey City, Newark, and Trenton).
Swann said that it is not company policy to comment on whether a site in a particular city is being explored. Christine Tzen, a spokesman for Barnes and Noble, gave a more detailed explanation of what the company's real estate team is looking for.
"They evaluate based on demographics, with some of the factors such as the educational levels of the people in the area, number of graduates with a BA degree or above, growth patterns, and income levels and lifestyles," said Tzen.
Barnes and Noble is the largest bookseller group in the United States with over 800 stores in 49 states, and has 29 locations in New Jersey (including B. Dalton bookstores). Tzen said there are no plans to open stores in Jersey City or other major cities in New Jersey in the foreseeable future.
If one is looking for a title on Afrocentric issues or wants to purchase an updated version of the Bible, then there are bookstores that can fulfill that need.
Black Horizon Books, located in both Hudson Mall and Newport Center Mall, as well as the Source of Knowledge in Newport Mall, are places to find either the latest Michael Eric Dyson book on the life of Marvin Gaye or a copy of a classic Donald Goines title.
Carlos Hicks, regional manager for Horizon Books Group (which operates nine Afrocentric bookstores in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania), said last week that he was looking at opening the Black Horizon book kiosks a few years ago in Jersey City, but only last year was he convinced that it was feasible to move forward.
"Once we see the market is there, then we expand in that direction," said Hicks.
Hicks said that business has been successful enough at Hudson Mall and Newport Mall to consider opening a new store. "My intention is to expand Horizon Books and turn it into the black Borders," said Hicks. "[It could be] café-style, with African arts and newspapers. People can sit down and read." Hicks said there's a storefront Black Horizon in the Gallery Mall in Philadelphia.
King of Glory Christian Bookstore located on Ocean Avenue is one of three bookstores in Jersey City that specialize in the sale of religious-themed books and merchandise. There are at least four churches within 10 blocks of the store.
Owner Floyd Jeter, who runs the store with his wife Shanda, said that he opened his store in August 2003. "I started it in a house, and God gave [me and my wife] the vision to open a store," said Jeter, who worked for Pepsi-Cola as an urban market manager before opening the bookstore.
Bookstores on the horizon
Hudson County Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons said last week that he had been in talks with Hudson County Community College (HCCC) recently about opening a general bookstore above the college's bookstore location in Journal Square.
"I had recommended that HCCC talk to the landlord about expanding to the second floor so that there's a general bookstore with a spiral staircase," said Fitzgibbons.
Fitzgibbons also said that a general bookstore would serve as a destination or a meeting place, citing the examples of the Symposia Community Bookstore in Hoboken and the Montclair Book Center in Montclair, N.J.
Dr. Glen Gabert, the president of HCCC, confirmed that there were talks with the Illnois-based Follet Corporation (the largest academic bookseller in the United States) two years ago about possibly opening a general bookstore on the empty floor above the academic bookstore at 26 Journal Square. Neither HCCC nor Follett are landlords of the 26 Journal Square location.
"Barnes and Noble and Follett were invited to come in with a plan for a bookstore," said Gabert. Gabert said that Barnes and Noble declined the offer, but Follett was enthusiastic about opening one in the Journal Square area.
"Follett would do well there. My own prediction is that there will be an expanded bookstore in the next three to four years," said Gabert.
Meanwhile, the Jersey City Public Library, an expansive system with 12 branches, announced recently that the Jersey City Free Public Foundation, Inc., the non-profit entity created for the purpose of raising funds for the Library's capital projects, would open a used bookstore and gift shop, with all profits from sales going to the foundation.