For the past 39 years, generations of book lovers from near and far have spent hours at the Cranbury Bookworm foraging through book after book in search of a literary treasure.
In March, the Bookworm will move from its current location at 54 N. Main St. up the road to 79 N. Main St., and while owner Andrew Feldman is optimistic the move is a means to a greater end, he also laments leaving behind a space to which so many are sentimentally attached.
“People hate change,” Feldman said. “So as long as we demonstrate the pricing and the product and the experience is the same, we feel like we will persevere.”
Like many structures in historical Cranbury Township, the current Bookworm location has a varied history. Originally a Victorian-style home, the building went on to house tenants, township offices, and, in 1974, the Cranbury Bookworm.
Through the years, the bookstore’s original proprietor, Ralph Schremp, acquired the building room by room, eventually filling 4,000 square feet with books, antiques, art, furniture, and other miscellany.
After Ralph Schremp’s passing in 2002, his widow, Anne Schremp, retained the business and the building, leaving the Bookworm’s management to family friend Larry Feldman and his son Andrew Feldman.
Now, for the first time in almost 40 years, the property will change hands, as Schremp wishes to retire and sell the property. Schremp also recently transferred ownership of the LLC to Andrew Feldman.
According to Feldman, however, it is not financially possible to purchase the current property and restore it.
In the future, Feldman hopes to find a permanent home for the Bookworm within the 3,000-square-foot range, but for now, finances allow him to utilize a 1,000-square-foot, one-story space up the street.
To accommodate a drastically smaller space, Feldman estimates the store will have to reduce its current stock from more than 60,000 books to between 12,000 and 15,000 books. To accomplish this, Feldman said the Bookworm will hold a huge sale in the near future, comparable to a library sale, and many books will simply be given away.
Feldman said the plan is to retain the sections that people look for the most – history, art, children’s, sci-fi, mystery, and rare books.
“It’s either move or close, and closing is not an option,” he said.
Despite the downsizing, Feldman has high hopes for the future of the Cranbury Bookworm, as well as the second-hand movement in general.
Both cleaner and safer, with a new bathroom, heating, and handicapped access, the new building provides an opportunity to reassess and reorganize the Bookworm.
For example, Feldman said he looks forward to organizing a more efficient children’s section. He also plans to make the most of the new space by placing bookcases on wheels, which he would then be able to easily rearrange for events and book signings.
Feldman said many locals take a great deal of pride in the Cranbury Bookworm, and he does not doubt they will follow the business to its new location.
Among several driving forces behind customer loyalty, Feldman said there is an experience shoppers have at the Cranbury Bookworm that they wouldn’t get at big box stores or online.
“It’s a hunt, a mystery, and an adventure,” Feldman said.
Additionally, shopping second-hand is simply a great value, he said.
Apart from the staging and scripting, Feldman likens acquiring the business’s used books and miscellany to the recently popular reality TV shows about pickers, and he even attributes some of the Bookworm’s sales to the picking revival.
According to Feldman, the Bookworm have always actively pursued books and antiques, and they will generally make two or three house calls per week.
“We have the ability to buy the contents of an entire estate, a storage locker, an old barn,” he said. “We will dig, pick, get dirty – do whatever it takes to find a treasure.”
A major draw of the job for Feldman is getting to know his customers in the process, something he feels is highly rewarding.
“Like any other business, big or small, our goal is to make money,” Feldman said. “But if we can physically or emotionally help our clients and customers along the way, it’s a win-win.”
Despite the move to a smaller location, Feldman said there would be no shift in what is bought or sold, just the venue.
“We started with one room, and if we have to go back to one floor, so be it,” he said.
Those who would like to help with the move are encouraged to contact the Cranbury Bookworm via its Facebook page.