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Village Story Peddlers: Books on the Common, Ridgefield, CT

The DMS wants to send some good cheer out to those wonderful independent books sellers starting in March. So, we decided that every month it would be great to share some of our favorite corner bookstores with our readers. For our first Village Story Peddlers post, we want to talk about Books on the CommonThis unique book nook has all the charm and enchantment you could imagine. It is a brilliant showcase for the many amazing stories housed on its reaching shelves. There to greet you with a friendly, bookish smile is the wise guardian of the books. Once inside, hold onto your pants, because the magical worlds of words will open right up for you. Follow along as we explore the history of the store and chat with the knowledgeable staff about what they think about books these days!

March Village Story Peddlers: 
Books on the Common, Ridgefield, CT 

Here's the story... 

Books on the Common was established in 1984 by Bob and Sally Silbernagel in a tiny 450 sq. ft. space. Bob and Sally ran the store together, putting in long hours, with help from only one part-time employee. Just a few years later, they boldly doubled that space and expanded into the adjacent store, for a total of nearly 2,100 square feet - above average size for an independent bookstore. 

With the additional shelf space, Bob and Sally were able to expand their inventory and increase the number of titles in stock. Over the years, their three children helped out at the store, and more staff was hired. Books on the Common offered outstanding customer service, wonderful conversation, and great book recommendations - all critical to the survival of independents. Sadly, on May 16, 1991, Bob lost a long battle with cancer and passed away at the age of 49, and Sally was left to run the store on her own. She hired additional staff and kept it going, despite the increasing competitive pressures to come.

The 1990s brought the "killer B's" to bookselling business - the chain stores Barnes & Noble and Borders expanded rapidly throughout the U.S., and both opened locations in Danbury. Encore Books opened (and closed) in nearby Copps Hill Common during that decade, and Books on the Green came (and went) on Main Street. And then there was Amazon - internet bookselling started with the dot-com explosion in the '90s and continues to challenge all "bricks & mortar" independent booksellers nationwide.

Through it all, Books on the Common thrived, thanks to the loyal support of our customers. The residents of Ridgefield, Redding, North & South Salem and other surrounding towns have patronized the store all these years.

After 20 years in business, Sally decided it was time to retire, and the store is now owned by Ellen Burns and Darwin Ellis – two long-time Ridgefielders and avid readers. Ellen and Darwin maintained the friendly, comfortable atmosphere of the store while bringing it up-to-date by computerizing the store operations. After 5 more years in Copps Hill, it was decided that a better, more visible location was needed. Fortunately, a wonderful space on Ridgefield's historic Main Street became available in early 2009. Following many months of planning and negotiating, Books on the Common was reborn in its new space at 404 Main Street – known to old-time Ridgefielders as Bedient's – the hardware store that operated from the building for 100 years. Although our location has changed, the most important things have not – our passion for books, our willingness to make great book recommendations, and our ability to provide outstanding service to our customers – our fellow book lovers.

Check out the post on Fairday's Blog! to hear what the staff had to say about books these days! 

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Comment by Jessica Haight on March 24, 2012 at 7:47pm

It is a really nice store! Thanks for stopping by, Jason! ~ Jess

Comment by Jason Mark Alster M.Sc on March 24, 2012 at 4:37pm

I was in this store once, very nice.

Comment by Jessica Haight on March 18, 2012 at 9:17pm

Thanks, Brenda! I am a big advocate of those magic corner book stores. I haven't graduated to an e-book yet. My co-author, Stephanie, has a Kindle. I think that they are amazing, but I also love, not only the feel of the physical book in my hands, but finding it at a great bookstore. I also love to talk to the staff and owners at these shops, they are all as passionate about the written word as I am : ) 

Comment by Brenda Sorrels on March 18, 2012 at 8:46pm

Hats off to you Jessica! 

     I love the small, independent bookstores more than anything and as an author, I know that they need all the support they can get in this day and age of change....I think it will somehow all work out though.  For example, I have a Kindle, but I also will always love the feel of a real book in my hands.  People might like shopping on line, but there will always be those who love a real bookstore too!  Books on the Common is one of those special places that people can't help but love.

Comment by Jessica Haight on March 18, 2012 at 8:30pm

Hi Brenda,

Thank you for your comments. It is a wonderful little store, and we were happy to spotlight it on the Village Story Peddlers post on Fairday's Blog! In an effort to support great bookstores, such as Books on the Common, Fairday's Blog! will be featuring a new independent book store each month. Have a great night! ~ Jess

Comment by Brenda Sorrels on March 18, 2012 at 8:24pm

Having lived in Wilton, Ct for years I was very famiiar with Books on The Common.  Ellen and Darwin have brought the store to the main street of Ridgefield and it is a "destination" for anyone visiting the town.  It is everything and more as described above and a testement to the survival of indie bookstores everywhere.  Everyone wants to check out Darwin's picks....and get on the email list of books he and Ellen have read throughout the year.  This is a store that nurtures readers and writers alike - a most wonderful place! 

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