Tag Archives: JoBa

JoBa Cafe: Embracing Change

This post was written by Ede Reynolds. To see her other posts, click here.

Downtown Waterbury is always in flux. Consequently, so are we at the John Bale Book Company. The current changes include the leaving of People’s Bank this summer. We’ll be losing many old friends (and customers) with this change. Recently, the morning paper announced Peter Abare-Brown will be leaving his post as Director of Human Resources for the city. Pete’s been a stalwart customer and close friend (and our de facto marketing director on the side). Yesterday, another old friend and customer from out of town stopped by after interviewing for a downtown job.

Change happens.

The retail profession is not for the timid. You have to love challenges and be a bit of a gambler to boot. So why do it?

For Dan and me it was to construct a way of life that we both enjoy. We wanted independence; we wanted to see if we could succeed in building something; and we wanted a quiet life with strong community ties. We have that and more. We have a network of friends we see everyday who share the good times and bad and who are as committed to having a good, friendly city.

On Wednesday, April 22, our bookstore café hosted the Feast, an international grassroots event that links participating communities across the world. Participants sit down to a meal and pose creative solutions to community challenges. It is a chance to do good, share the results with other communities and get ideas for ways to make your environment better. Local laundromat owner Paul Tillotson suggested we try it and Waterbury was accepted into the Feast network.

That same night the city was hosting an open meeting for the public to share ideas on how to improve downtown.

Being a local business, we can’t help but want to improve the city and its economy. It’s been a core of our mission. We don’t just sell books or coffee, we participate. The bookstore has been a wonderful vehicle for helping us find like-minded people who share this outlook.

Arri Sendzimier recently announced she was moving to Montana to live close to her family. She said she’d miss the “gang” at John Bale, of which she’s a member. And we will miss her. This past Mardi Gross she helped manage the crafts tent with the Brass City Charter School volunteers. My favorite photo of her is where she is walking around wearing a giant pumpkin costume. How can you not be happy to spend your days with people like that?

Flux, a challenge. We are meeting the current changes with new ideas like our Saturday afternoon lyceum programs. We host a high tea on that day as well. On Thursdays our great friend Marty Q performs live during lunch.

We crafted a life and found it to be good.

JoBa Cafe: Rethinking Our Mission

This post was written by Ede Reynolds. To see her other posts, click here.

Bookstores used to be a place where you went to discover something new or something that would entertain you– much like a library except you got to pay for the book and keep it forever. That’s what it was like when we opened our doors 22 years ago. In the ensuing years the Internet changed all that. Now, much of what you read is online, and in the case of Google Books, it is for free. This has forced bookstores and libraries to rethink their purpose in the community.

Our company has more than 80,000 books listed for sale online, books that sit in boxes on shelves in a warehouse. When one sells, we retrieve it and ship it out to every part of the world (even Antarctica). But people still, on occasion, come into the store to buy books the old-fashioned way and that is why our first floor maintains a selection of general knowledge titles. For collectors and scholars, the second floor contains older, more specialized titles and bindings. And there is a third component, those things that sell at trade shows to serious collectors.

So, if most people buy books online, what is the role of the bookstore? Economic development people like bookstores because it hearkens to a more genteel time. Bookstores announce, “This is a literate town, one that appreciates learning”‘ But bookstores aren’t just “window dressing.” We have a role in the new computer-connected world.

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JoBa Cafe: At One With the Community

This post was written by Ede Reynolds. To see more of her posts, click here:

Dan and I recently unearthed a 2003 photo of Gov. John Rowland’s visit to our new shop.  He was on a downtown campaign tour to promote Republican mayoral candidate Mark Forte, a longtime friend of ours.  When Governor mentioned that his wife, Patty, had written a children’s book, “Marvelous Max the Mansion Mouse,”  I decided to host a booksigning in time for the Christmas buying season.

From left to right: Gov. John Rowland, Mark (a friend of the shop), and Danny Gaeta.
From left to right: Gov. John Rowland, Mark Forte (mayoral candidate & a friend of the shop), and Danny Gaeta.

We looked forward to the publicity her appearance would afford but it turned out to have afforded more attention than we anticipated.

Prior to the signing the press began questioning some of the Governor’s expenditures, citing that work done for his private benefit was performed at the state’s expense.  Adding fuel to the fire, Patty Rowland rebuked the press in writing by way of a Christmas poem.  On the morning she was to appear at John Bale I received an early morning call from John Murray who publishes the Waterbury Observer.

“I don’t think she’ll show,” he told me.  I waited to see what would happen and, a few minutes before the signing was scheduled to begin, Patty and her driver showed up.  When the press arrived I kept them at bay.  As a guest of the bookstore, she was there to do one thing–sign books.  Good manners dictated her visit with us should be civilized and focused. I insisted the press wait outside. The book was well received and we quickly ran through two cartons of copies.

When the signing was done, she retired to our second floor and called her husband.  A few minutes later Patty asked if she could invite the reporters for a private interview.

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JoBa Cafe: A Humble Beginning

This post is written by Ede Reynolds and is the first post in a series of posts about the history and day-to-day affairs of the John Bale Book company.

When Dan begins digging in boxes he tucked away years before, you never know what he’ll unearth.  This time it was a bookshop log I started when, in 2003, we moved from our location in the basement of Howland Hughes to our present location on Grand St. Our present 158 Grand St. store is a far cry from where we stared–down the street in a 400 s/f space.

A wonderful photo Dan Gaeta and Edith Reynolds, the owners of the John Bale Book Company  in the prime of their life.
A wonderful photo Dan Gaeta and Edith Reynolds, the owners of the John Bale Book Company in the prime of their life.

I hope this blog will allow us to highlight some of the things we do in the café and some of our community activities, but for today, I’d like to lay down the foundation of how we began in 1992.  It may have been empty nest or a mid-life crisis but Dan and I wanted to have our own business.  But what?  Dan was certain it had to be downtown for sentimental reasons (he started working as a delivery boy at age 13 for Cappy’s Deli on South Main St. He went on to earn a business degree from NYU so felt confident the world would be his oyster).

Me?  I was on a sabbatical from my job at what was then called Mattatuck Community College and on the board of directors for Literacy Volunteers.  I knew there were too few opportunities for our students to buy inexpensive books.  Voila! A used bookshop would be our experiment.

The storefront was a “white box” thanks to the landlord Gary Bellard and he offered us an inexpensive rent in order to fill the space.  Remember, in 1992  the Great Downtown Business Exodus had begun.

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