(This interview was conducted in early January, 2013.)

1.      Can you tell us about your family, how many kids do you have and what ages?

My wife, Ellen, and I have two kids, Liz, age 22, and Daniel, age 17.

2.      Why did you choose to live in Maplewood and what made you buy a bookstore in Maplewood?

We moved to Maplewood in 1990 when Ellen was pregnant with Liz.  We moved here at the suggestion of David Schwab, my college roommate, and his wife, Carla Cantor, who still live in Maplewood.  We bought the bookstore in October 2008 in response to the recession and a desire to do something to help our community.  We wanted to start a vocational training program for young people with autism, and we decided to do so within the confines of a real business.  We have had approximately 50 young people with autism come through our program.

3.      What drives you and what is your business philosophy?

We are driven by our love of the community and, in particular, our desire to help those with special needs.   Our business philosophy is one of a social enterprise – we hope to work within the free-market system to enhance our community.

4.      How did you come up with the name [words] for your store?

One of the benefits of our mission is that we receive pro bono help.  A major advertising agency, Barker DZP, volunteered its services to us and came up with a list of 30 names and we chose [words], because it is evocative of both books as well as the challenges faced by individuals with autism in engaging in conversations.

5.      Tell something to our readership that we don’t know about your store and its offerings?

Where do I begin?  FIrst, we have an outstanding children’s section curated by an expert children’s book buyer.  Second, we promote a broader knowledge of world cultures, so we have an unusually large selection of books by authors from around the globe, as well as a deep international affairs non-fiction section.  Third, because of our special needs emphasis, we have one of the state’s largest collections of books on autism.  Finally, most people don’t know that we can get you most books in print faster than you can get them online, usually by the next day (or two) and sometimes even the same day.

6.      I have heard about [words] events, can you tell us more about line up of events for the next 6 months?

We have many authors slated for the next six months.   Two include Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, who is now a well-known children’s author, who is coming on February 17 at 2 and the superstar mystery best-seller Harlan Coben who is coming on March 20 at 12:30.

7.      Can moms of young kids bring in strollers, sit down and read books?

We love, love, love having moms come in with young kids!  Regular strollers fit easily – if you have a double stroller, just make sure we see you and we would be happy to create an extra-wide opening.   Moms can also order online at wordsbookstore.com or email us at words@wordsmaplewood.com.  We are often able to provide free local delivery, if needed, for moms who cannot get out of the house!

8.      Is there a restroom that is children friendly at the store?

Absolutely have a children-friendly restroom (no diaper-changing table, however).

9.  What are the areas, genres that you want to expand your book selection or your offerings?

Humor.  Humor books are going like hotcakes.  Our cookbook section also does very well, and we are always getting new ones.  If we are ever out of a book that someone wants, we can usually get it within one day.

10.  Name a book that you recently read and would like to share with the readers.

“Oddly Normal,” a book by John Schwartz, a New York Times reporter who lives in Millburn, about his raising his son who is gay, and what it is like to raise a child who turns out to be a bit different than expected.

11.  Is there any special deal you can give Momagama readers for this coming season?

If you register to come to see Peter Yarrow or Harlan Coben and tell us that you heard about the event through Momagama, we will give your readers 10% off Peter or Harlan’s new books.

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