Asbury Park bookstore becomes co-op to compete with online retail giants

Management at an independently owned bookstore in Asbury Park has had to take a new approach to complete with online retail giants.
The Words! Bookstore has been a fixture in Asbury Park for more than a decade. The bookstore's manager says even though the Cookman Avenue store's profits have been impacted by the success of larger online bookstores, customers have been adamant about keeping Words! in the city.
"Something about going to a bookstore always just feels like home,” says customer Kat Balitsos.
Balitsos says that she just moved to the area and was looking for a new place that “felt like home” and she says she found it at Words!
"I really liked the staff, they just seem -- they're so personable and nice. They always remember you, which is why I like local bookstores,” she says.
Balitsos says that when she found out that Words! was becoming a co-op, she jumped at the chance to become a member.
"It just seemed like how I'd want to spend my money that I'm spending on books anyway,” she says.
In addition to offering new and gently used books to customers, Words! also offers a space for community members to gather for events like book club meetings, readings and storytime for kids. The store's manager says that transitioning to a co-op gives Words! the opportunity to stay and thrive in Asbury Park.
"We just really saw this as the opportune moment to make the transition and make the change and as soon as we announced it and put it out there in the world, our community really, really jumped on it,” says Words! Manager Liza Minno Bloom
Minno Bloom says that the store kicked off their membership drive just over one month ago and already have more than 100 members. Balitsos says the response shows how much residents appreciate their local bookstore.
"People want like that community spot where you can buy your own books and get recommendations and talk about books and that personalness that you don't get from an online bookseller,” Balitsos says.
Minno Bloom says that the plan is to launch the co-op this spring and officially change the name of the shop to the Asbury Book Cooperative.