After what seemed to be our fifth blizzard, I slogged through mounds of snow and ice to the front porch of the venerable Cranbury Bookworm at 54 North Main St. But when I opened the door to meet Andrew Feldman, the owner, I felt as if I had, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, been transported into a warm, magical place where one could bathe in a glorious, colorful world of books.
First under the management of Ralph Schremp, who passed away in 2002, and now under the direction of Andrew and Steven Feldman, the shop has been in operation since 1974. In that time, this Victorian home has become a Cranbury landmark for the vintage book collector as well as the young mom looking for a gently handled copy of Good Night Moon or Corduroy for a price that won’t break anyone’s budget.
By 2003, the Feldman brothers, Andrew and Steven, took over the reins at the Bookworm after years of part-time experience manning the register for Ralph Schremp. This weekend, Andrew reflected on his role as the secretary of the Cranbury Business and Professional Association and how this organization promotes the greater Cranbury business community.
“We are very excited about our new Special Projects Room. This side porch was filled with old novels and magazines and a 70s, grey shag rug. It’s taken three years to complete this renovation. We hope to have readings, maybe book clubs and other local groups who can meet here.”
I asked how the Bookworm amassed their thousands of books.
“We get calls from people who are cleaning out their parents’ homes or attics," he said. "The reality is that for every hundred books, there may be ten that are extremely valuable. But we have serious professional dealers from New Jersey and Pennsylvania who come to us looking to add to their collections.”
However, Feldman stressed that he always wants people to call the Bookworm when they are moving or settling an estate. “A big or small collection is always worth looking at,” he said.
"We used to have old copies of Life and Look magazines out on this porch but now with the Internet anyone can offer their vintage magazines for sale,” he added.
Feldman was also enthusiastic about the new bus service that runs from Princeton Junction all the way to Jamesburg.
“For $1, a Princeton student can hop on that bus line and be dropped off right here on Main Street. We are thinking about Bookworm promotions tied in with other businesses on Main Street to entice those students to come to peruse our stacks,” he said.
Andrew Feldman exuded a passion for this work. “I can talk to you forever about books and the world of antiques. Since I was a little kid, my parents dragged me around to flea markets and antique shows. That’s where my folks met Ralph Schremp and they became best of friends,” he said.
He said Mrs. Schremp felt the Bookworm would be in good hands when the Feldmans took over day-to-day operations in 2003.
As I thanked Andrew for his time, I said, “You know, there is a unique fragrance to an old book shop that you won’t experience in an electronic book.”
Feldman paused and replied, “I don’t know if I’d call it a fragrance, but it is a different smell for sure.”
This past holiday season many book lovers received Nook or Kindle e-readers and started downloading e-books. I recall that as a kid my house had a breakfast nook and kindling was used to get a good fire going in your fireplace.
However, Feldman contends that he is not bothered by this new digital age of electronic books. “There will always be a desire for people to read books and we fill the needs of many readers. We can help the mature female who wants a one-dollar romance novel as well as serious collectors of history,” he said.
“Our loyal customers are the ones that make the Bookworm special," he added. "They appreciate the eclectic mix of items that we offer. They make it happen.”
If you have become a bit weary of the big-box book stores that sell lattes, expensive chocolates, toys, greeting cards and calendars—and oh yes, books—you might enjoy prowling the shelves for an hour on a snowy day at the Feldman brothers’ Bookworm.
You won’t be offered a cappuccino and there is no free wi-fi, but there might be that out-of-print biography you’ve been searching for. The experience? Priceless.