We sat down with Roxanne, the owner of independent bookstore RJ Julia in Middletown, Connecticut over a hot tea from her cafe. We wanted to talk about the love of tangible books in a digital age and ended up with a story about community gathering spaces, and the importance of loving what you do. 

Q: How does your bookstore encourage customers to hit the pause button, step away from the hustle, and appreciate the analog side of life? 

A: We offer a warm and welcoming ambiance and a highly-curated selection of books for readers of all ages — the perfect atmosphere for serendipity and discovery. We encourage visitors to browse the cozy nooks of the store, pausing to read, or to enjoy a cup of coffee in our cozy café. Time spent with a book, and amongst fellow book lovers, or perhaps meeting a favorite author at one of our events, is time well spent. 


Q: When someone enters your bookstore, what do you hope they feel? Happiness, excitement, nostalgia? 

A: When readers enter our store, we want them to feel excited for their next can’t-put-down read, or to meet their favorite-of-all-time author. Readers can be sure that when they pick up any book at our store, it is one that we have hand-selected with specific reading audiences in mind.  


Q: Can you share a specific story that illustrates how your shop has made a meaningful impact on someone's life? 

A: Over our 34-years, we have built an enduring community. We’ve watched children become parents, celebrated as our customers become parents and grandparents, and watched our community grow and change. We often hear from customers that the bookstore was their first outing after the death of a parent or spouse. We frequently witness marriage proposals and host engagement photo sessions in the bookstore. 

The mutual support of our community during the COVID-19 pandemic will never be forgotten. Even though the store was closed for browsing, we continued to assist readers with book recommendations, and we sold puzzles by the pallet, delivering online orders “curbside” and to doorstops along the Connecticut shoreline. Books change lives every day and we feel so honored to make that possible. 



Q: With the rise of audio books and e-books, what do you believe draws people to the tactile experience of a hard copy? What qualities do you think physical books offer that digital formats can’t replicate? 

A: With technology and bright screens playing an integral role in our day-to-day work and interactions, readers relish the opportunity to spend time with a hard copy of a book. Print on paper is easier on the eyes and readers remember more of the plot, understand the plot to a higher degree, and empathize more with characters. In the case of illustrated picture books, illustrations on paper are often of higher quality than e-books, and young readers interact more directly with the story. 

In addition, the fact that books remain in bookcases in homes and offices allows readers to see the books they’ve read, to reminisce about the story and the characters and how they made the reader feel. It’s much easier to build a complete “reading life” with physical books than e-books. 


Q: A lot of people tend to say they don’t “have the time” to read for leisure, or they don’t know where to begin when choosing a book. What advice would you give to those people? Is there a specific genre you’d recommend starting with, or a certain time and place you think presents the best opportunity for slowing down and picking up a book? 

A: Our booksellers are absolute experts! Not only are they extremely well and broadly read, but they also know how and what their fellow booksellers like to read. Therefore, we will match a reader with a bookseller to get the recommendation just right. Ultimately, we are fiercely committed to putting the right book in the right hand. 

For those who haven’t read in a while, we’d likely recommend something light, something to ease into. We may also recommend attending one of our many events at the bookstore.  The enthusiasm from an author and fellow booklovers is contagious! Authors from all over the country — some even from overseas — visit the store to inspire, educate, and entertain us. Simply attending an event or visiting the bookstore to soak in the literary atmosphere may be all that’s needed to get out of a reading rut. In addition, readers and local customers often make great recommendations and offer support in the comments of our social media posts. Our community of readers is warm and welcoming and happy to help!

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