MIDDLETOWN – A local bookstore has a new story to tell as it opens another location in the state.
The iconic independent bookstore has been up and running in Madison since 1989 hosting over 300 events each year. The bookstore has hosted authors from all over the country including President Carter, Hilary Clinton, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
“I believe in bookstores, I believe in what they do for communities so the idea to bring books to another community, it just doesn’t get better than that,” Owner Roxanne Coady said.
She said the trick to keeping a thriving bookstore at a time when big businesses are a threat is delivering for the community.
“I think the reason we’ve been able to exist for 27 years in Madison is because we do what people want,” Coady said. “We’ve had thousands of authors, we do 300 events a year.”
The new Middletown location is expected to have at about 200 events a year including visits from authors. Regular community events will include children’s story time every Saturday morning and “Spoken Word Open Mic Night,” the first Thursday of every month.
The 13 thousand square foot building includes about 18-thousand books with special sections highlighting authors from the Wesleyan community. Coady expects to hire about 25 people.
The space also includes “Grown,” a USDA Organic Certified restaurant created in Miami, Florida by Middletown natiive Shannon Allen.
“It feels so good to be able to bring life back to Main Street Middletown,” Allen said. “There's nothing like shopping in your own community, going to Amato’s Toy and Hobby, visiting Kid City, spending time at the library, eating at Fiori’s I mean there’s so many gems right here in Middletown, Connecticut.”
Middletown Mayor Dan Drew calls the store’s opening a transformational moment for Middletown. RJ Julia took over one of several vacant spaces on Main Street.
“This will spur tremendous growth because the number of people that are going to come into the community as a result of this being here is enormous,” Mayor Drew said.
This will serve as a place for community members, especially the Wesleyan community as it will be a place students can get their textbooks.
Wesleyan University President Michael Roth said it’s part of the strategy to engage the university community more with the city.
“Wesleyan has been in Middletown for more than 100 years and we are eager to do more business with Middletown,” Roth said. “Our students work in the public schools, they work in the hospitals, they work in local businesses and here’s a chance for Weslyan students, staff and faculty to interact with the citizens of Middletown.”
Tuesday’s event was a ribbon cutting. The official opening date for RJ Julia’s Middletown location is Saturday, June 3rd.
The grand opening will feature the first weekly story time for children of all ages at 10:30 a.m., including face painting, balloons and giveaways. The store’s first author event will take place at 7 p.m. with Andrew Blauner on his new anthology, In their Lives: Great Writers on great Beatles Songs.