From greenbacks to hardbacks

By Rusty Tagliareni

Sue-Ni and Ethan DiStefano had been selling books out of their Branchville, NJ home on and off for a decade, but when they found themselves moving literally thousands of books, it was time to upsize. They’d been eyeing the stone bank building around the corner from their house for a while. How could you not, with its grand historical character and prominent placement in the hub of the town? Constant encouragement from friends and customers to open a brick and mortar bookstore made the old bank building more and more appealing.“We bought it on March 30, 2012,” recalls Sue, the date engraved into her memory. Purchase price: $179,634. They went about transforming what was once the First National Bank of Branchville into the friendly neighborhood bookstore. Today, the building’s massive arches serve as king-size book nooks, and its winding staircase and old fashioned charm give visitors the feeling that maybe it was always intended to be a beautiful bookstore, but had to serve as a bank until its true calling came along.The bulk of the stock at Broad Street Books is secondhand, but not just any previously loved book will make it onto their shelves (it should be noted that the shelves too are recycled, and originally hail from the last Borders bookstore to close in New Jersey). The DiStefanos pride themselves on having a “quality cultivated collection,” which means they’re very particular about what makes the cut. They have made it a point to house a wide selection of material by local authors, and actively support them via book sales and signings.Can an independent bookstore make it in the age of Amazon? Increasingly, it seems that they can. After all, said Ethan, “You need a bookstore to find the books you’re not looking for.”