WORD Bookstore’s Greenpoint location (126 Franklin St.) turned fifteen earlier this week, which has co-owner Vincent Onorati reflecting on the past while also looking ahead.
“The fact that it’s fifteen is shocking to me and so many people. We had zero kids when we started the store, now we have three of our own,” Onorati said. “It still feels pretty much the same. Obviously the neighborhood around us has changed – y’know Williamsburg was always sort of chaotic, but Greenpoint was always sort of insulated from that, so it still feels very much like a community.”
Though Onorati does also acknowledge how the changing state of retail and the neighborhood have priced out countless other businesses and community members, which makes the milestone feel a bit bittersweet.
“We’re only as lucky as our lease … it’s hard for anyone to survive,” Onorati noted.
That sense of survival has forced WORD to evolve and be more than just a bookstore to the community as they navigate the ever-changing competitive landscape, from Barnes and Noble to Amazon. This includes selling not just books, but also stationary and gifts, as well as practical self-care items like handcrafted candles and vibrators. And while it may seem strange to see a personal massager next to Dune, to WORD, it aligns with their ethos of catering to those who find reading and adjacent activities to be key to their mental health and self-betterment.
But the real treasure of the store, to Onorati, is its staff. Contrary to big-box book stores, WORD focuses on hiring career booksellers who are just as passionate about reading books as they are about selling them.
“It’s not like the revolving door of some other retail; we’re hiring really smart career booksellers, which is why we’re really proud of incubating and getting people from the neighborhood,” Onorati explained. “When you walk through that door, everyone knows that you can get that book for less elsewhere. And that’s why it’s so important to have these booksellers who read books. That’s why people want to know ‘is Steven working today? Is Amanda working today, or Mindy, she really knows what I like.’”
In terms of the next fifteen years of WORD Greenpoint, Onorati would love to see the return of in-person events at the store, but ultimately the focus is on continuing to do what they do best by leveraging their booksellers, social media presence, and ever-expanding unique selection.
“Every day, basically since COVID, has been a celebration. It’s pretty remarkable,” Onorati said.