WHAT’S IN STORE: The Cranbury Bookworm is ready for its next chapter

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Andrew Feldman will continue to sell books online after The Cranbury Bookworm closes its brick-and-mortar store at the end of the month.

By Rich Fisher
   Besides his family, books are Andrew Feldman’s life. And the Cranbury Bookworm has taken up over half his life.
   So Andrew is a little sad that this is the final month the 42-year-old bookstore will be a brick-and-mortar business at 79 North Main St. in Cranbury, at least for now. He is quick to point out, however, “We’re not going out of business.”
   Indeed, the Bookworm will continue to sell its impressive library — amassed through home purchases — on line in order to ease a financial burden.
   Until that happens, however, the Bookworm will remain open and is staging sales throughout the end of June. Notices of the bargains will be posted on the shop’s Facebook page, and can also be found booksalefinder.com.
   ”In the short term we will be internet,” said Feldman, a 36-year-old married father of two pre-school daughters. “We need to regroup and reload.”
   The Bookworm started 42 years ago and quickly became a popular destination for buyers and sellers. Books of all subjects and authors were purchased from estate sales, libraries and homes where people were just trying to clean out some books. They quickly became inventory for the Bookworm.
   Growing up in Plainsboro, Andrew became familiar with Cranbury by playing baseball in Village Park for Rue Insurance of the Cranbury-Plainsboro Little League. His father’s best friend was the original owner of the Bookworm and Mr. Feldman began working there at age 15. When the owner passed away, he returned to help part-time in 2002 at age 22, and never left.
   In 2013, Andrew and his wife, Alicia DeLorenzo, bought the business and moved from the original location to the current Main Street spot. Despite financial concerns, Mr. Feldman’s devotion to the Bookworm made him want to keep it going.
   ”There were a lot of people before me who made this place special,” he said. “We didn’t want to move, but we couldn’t afford that property. This was just a place to be to figure out what we’re going to do moving forward. Unfortunately there were some things that changed in the transition. There were some moving parts and we had to open this place with no cash. Not a lot of people know that.
   ”It’s virtually impossible to run a small retail business with no cash. It’s a crazy thing to do. But we were one week from officially opening and my wife and I sort of made a decision what we had to do. People have been incredibly generous, the community has been great since we bought the place.”
   But even the generosity was not enough to keep the Bookworm going in a physical state. In waxing poetic much like the authors he has on his shelves, Mr. Feldman said, “Owning a brick-and-mortar book shop in a small town is much like owning a yacht. The only difference is that the person who owns the yacht probably has a lot more money in their pocket.”
   That being said, there is still a Bookworm, and business will still be conducted as usual as Mr. Feldman will continue to purchase books from private owners and sell them. The only difference is, it will be through the internet.
   ”We don’t order any books, that’s always been something unique about us,” Mr. Feldman said. “Everything comes from referrals, people calling us out of the blue, like realtors and estate situations. I’m in two or three houses a week. It’s wonderful.
   ”That’s what I love, the hunt,” he says. “I love the people that put the collection together. It’s really special talking to the person who spent their life putting that room together.”
   And while the personal interaction is nice for Mr. Feldman, the treasures that he procures are what matter to his customers. The selections and variety of authors will remain as eclectic on line as they are in the shop.
   ”We’ll have rare books no longer in print,” he said. “Some people have a little bit of everything, but most of what we buy is very specific. They’ll be into sociology, or history, or art. You find things people spend years trying to look for. You unearth things. I see a new book every day.”
   Mr. Feldman explained that there are several reasons why the shop on Main Street has become a money pit for he and Alicia. But the essence of the shop — hard-to-find books from classics to never-heard-ofs — will still be alive by clicking a mouse.
   ”If every month you’re trying to put a square peg in a round hole and nothing is changing, you need to stop,” he said. “I’ve been selling online for 13 years. I have a ton of on-line experience, that’s not an issue.”
   During its three years at the new location, the Bookworm has done its part to help the community. It has staged food drives, clothing drives and other charitable events.
   ”We filled my car four or five times after Hurricane Sandy,” Andrew said. But it’s the people who like us who made that happen, not me. We were a facilitator.”
   Those are the kinds of things that have made the Cranbury Bookworm part of the town’s fabric, which is what makes this so tough for Mr. Feldman.
   ”I think that’s why it took so long to make this decision,” he said. “I’ve had family and friends constantly say to me ‘Release the emotion, release the emotion.’ My emotional attachment is there, of course.”
   Mr. Feldman said a lot of decisions would be made over the summer as to how he will continue to sell books. He may or may not re-open an actual shop, that will all be decided in the future.
   He still encourages anyone with merchandise to sell to email him at [email protected] or call 609-655-1063, and he will begin posting inventory online in the future. He will come to a seller’s house and move all the books himself after a sale.
   Shoppers would be smart to check out the sales at the shop over the next three weeks. And Mr. Feldman cannot stress enough that while the body of the Cranbury Bookworm will not be there, the soul still will be.
   ”Nothing is changing in what we sell, we’re just not going to be brick and mortar,” he said. “I don’t want people think we’re giving up. We’re not giving up. We have to start over.”
   In starting over, however, book sales will not stop.
The Cranbury Bookworm is located at 79 N. Main St., Cranbury, through the end of June. For more information, go to cranburybookworm.com.