by Amy Borer
Are you looking for one of Shakespeare’s plays in German or that hard to find jazz CD? Or would you like to listen to some blues while enjoying a hot cup of java? At Borders in Montclair, which opened its doors Aug. 31, you can find all this and more.
“It’s a different animal,” said Pete Ledesma, community relations coordinator for the store. “We’re a bookstore, music store and cafe. It’s a user friendly, hands-on place.”
With more than 100,000 book titles, 50,000 CD and cassette titles, 8,000 video titles, 2,000 periodicals in 10 different languages from 15 different countries and live music every Friday through Sunday, Borders prides itself with being a cultural icon for the community.
“Borders tends to be a cultural center,” Ledesma said.
He also added that the main demographic of the store is better educated people with college degrees.
“Our customers usually know what they want,” he said. “Usually if they come up to the information desk, it’s to order something, not to ask a question about a book or author. We learn a lot from our customers. I learn something every day I’m in this store.”
Borders is a chain of individually operated stores which began in Michigan in 1971. The original Borders was a used book store opened by two brothers, Tom and Louis Border. According to Ledesma, it was Borders that initially came up with the concept of a coffee house within a book store.
Despite the fact that Borders is a chain, each store is different.
“Part of the Borders’ trademark is that we really try to tie into the community,” said Patricia Cripps, general manager of the Montclair store. “Since each community is different, each Borders will be different.”
Both Cripps and Ledesma believe that the Montclair Borders is exceptionally diverse.
“This Borders is very diverse because the community is so diverse,” Ledesma said. “I’m shocked that the area is as diverse as it is. When someone says Montclair, you don’t think of diversity.”
But despite its diversity, being in Montclair does cause some problems.
“Getting authors is really challenging in this area,” said Ledesma. “They don’t want to come to Montclair. Getting large authors is a hard sale. We begged Deacon Jones.”
Ledesma is referring to former football player David “Deacon” Jones, who co-authored a new book, “HEADSLAP: The Life and Times of Deacon Jones,” with John Klatwitter. Jones appeared at Borders Oct. 12.
The store also has a local section and encourages local authors and artists to come in.
“We’re trying to be a big store but keep it small,” explained Ledesma. “We really want to get local talent in here.”
One local event that is happening at Borders is an exhibit by the First Street Gallery in Claremont, which opens today and runs for the duration of the month. The art from the Gallery will be displayed on the ends of the aisles, as well as various locations throughout the store.
On Tuesday, Nov. 5, Mark Cervenka, from First Street Gallery, will give a lecture focusing on print making and outsider art, which will complement the exhibit.
Each month, a new exhibit will be installed and an artist will give a lecture corresponding to the art.
“We want to reflect the diversity of the artists in the area, including children,” said Peggy Jackson, a bookseller who coordinates the art series at the Montclair Borders. “I want each month to be very different and cover all art mediums.”
For those people interesting in reading about art, Borders also has a large selection on the subject.
“I feel we have the most in depth collection of art books in the valley that would be of interest to students,” Jackson said.
Ledesma, who is in charge of booking most of the entertainment for the store, does not have trouble filling the bill of nearly daily acts.
“People just want to play in a Borders. It’s amazing,” he said, speaking in particular of bands. “But we’d really like to get more local bands to send in their demos.”
Entertainment on tap for Borders this month includes, but is not limited to, a script writing seminar today by Dave Trottier; both a performance by guitarist Michael Ryan and flutist Adam Kaplan and a book signing by Claremont author Judith Merkle Riley on Nov. 2; a performance by the Kool Blue Sisters, an all female blues band, on Nov. 16; and a lecture and book signing on Nov. 21 by Nikki Nemerouf, author of “Discovering the Gift of You,” who also has conducted professional growth programs for such organizations as the Olympic Committee and McDonnell Douglas.
While the people at Borders want to promote their schedule of daily entertainment, they really pride themselves on their selection.
“Borders goes beyond the mass market selection of books that many stores offer and carries an in depth selection of titles that would appeal to the intellectual,” said Jackson.
“You find a lot of music and books here you won’t find in other stores,” added Ledesma. “Nobody can match our service and selection. Real serious readers and music lovers come into our store.”
Unlike other retail stores, Borders encourages its customers to browse and sample. Throughout the store furniture is scattered to provide comfortable places to read, and in the music section there are listening stations where any selection in the store can be sampled before it is purchased.
“They [the customers] may not buy it this time they’re here, but they’ll come back,” said Ledesma.
Borders also offer a variety of discounts to draw costumers into the store. Hardback books are 10 percent off list price, and the New York Times bestsellers and employee selections are both 30 percent off. For those interested in music, all CDs placed at the listening stations around the store are $12.99, while the 50 top selling CDs, taken from sales at Borders stores all over the nation, are discounted to $11.99.
If someone has not had the chance to check out the new Borders, Ledesma encourages him to do so.
“It’s a happening store,” he said. You can’t beat it. It’s a beautiful store, too.”