Used bookstore hopes to make its mark downtown

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

JEFF GRANIT staff Abraham Wachstein recently opened Metuchen Books.JEFF GRANIT staff Abraham Wachstein recently opened Metuchen Books.

METUCHEN — Folks strolling downtown will find a new addition to the business district at 465 Main St.

Crowds taking short walks or browsing around downtown motivated Abraham Wachstein of Manalapan to open Metuchen Books. According to Wachstein, he was looking for a town where people walk.

The used bookstore opened its doors in August and so far the response has been positive, he said.

"I decided to follow my heart and open a bookstore," said Wachstein. "I’m trying to make a business out of a love."

His love of books began as a child in Brooklyn. where he was a "big customer" of the borough’s libraries. His early favorites were Mark Twain’s "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn," as well as science fiction.

Wachstein, the father of three college students, said he began seriously collecting books about 30 years ago. He started with leather-bound books, and when that became too expensive, he turned to other genres. He said books on art and architecture are his real love.

According to Wachstein, many of the books for sale in his shop come from his personal collection. His home is filled with books.

To keep things fresh, there is constant turnover in the store, and Wachstein purchases more books each day to keep the shelves filled. He buys books from people directly in the shop or at people’s homes before and after business hours.

In one day last week, he brought in four boxes of books and had already sold the contents of two of them.

Wachstein does reject some books. He will not buy textbooks unless they are over 150 years old or library books unless he can see it was actually withdrawn from the library.

"I won’t buy mildew[ed] books," he added.

Potential customers are lured to the assortment of books lying on the table outside the store. Wachstein, sitting in the front of his store, is quick to tap on the glass window, make contact with them and wave them in.

"Once I get a person in the store, they come back," he said.

Metuchen Books is divided into three rooms with books arranged according to genre on the light-colored, kiln-dried wooden shelves – which the owner crafted himself.

He said lumberyards do not stock the kind of wood he wanted to use and that it took him three deliveries to get the amount he needed.

Wachstein refers to his selection of books as eclectic — just like the interests of people who go to bookstores. His books run the gamut from art and architecture to children’s books and leather- bound sets. He also has numerous books on New Jersey and New York and boasts a large collection of classics.

Wachstein says that the large chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Borders are not his competition. They often turn to the used bookstores when they have a request for an out-of-print book from a customer.

Wachstein’s books are priced from 50 cents to $650 for John Wyndham’s 1951 first edition of "Day of the Triffids."

In addition to books, Wachstein has autographed Playbills from the 1920s and automobile sales brochures from the 1940s and 1950s.

"I hope to cater to people who like good books," Wachstein said.

Metuchen Books is open seven days a week. The hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For further information call (732) 767-1480.