Skip the drive to Barnes & Noble in Deptford and, instead, check out Gloucester Township's newest spot for coffee, books and community.
"We've always loved coffee and books," said Rosemary Moore, who owns The Book Asylum with her husband, Jeff. "Barnes & Noble was our date night."
The Book Asylum at 26 N. Black Horse Pike in downtown Blackwood opened nearly two years ago. This July, the store opened an 800-square-foot coffee shop. The shop serves all the traditional coffeehouse favorites like lattes, espresso, coffee, baked goods and even pumpkin pie coffee for the fall.
The store will host an official grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 6, with Mayor David Mayer officiating.
Rosemary made sure to source local and sustainable products for the coffee shop. All baked goods are courtesy of Forget Me Not Chocolates, a small business based in Berlin and a regular at Blackwood Farmers Market. Coffee is from Talk N Coffee based in Deptford. And all coffee cups, utensils, napkins and other service goods are made from recycled materials.
"We love the atmosphere and wanted to bring it to The Book Asylum," Jeff said. "It is nice to be able to pick up a book, have a cup of coffee and relax."
The bookstore continues to attract new customers like Sicklerville resident Lonnie Rivenbark, who spotted the store earlier in the spring on his way home from work. Rivenbark stops in a few times a month for a cup of coffee and to peruse the shelves for rare and unusual science fiction finds, like a 1963 Isaac Asimov nonfiction book on the human body.
"I've always been an avid reader and I've always loved books," said Rivenbark. "For a smaller store, The Book Asylum has a fabulous science fiction section."
The Moores have also continued to grow the bookstore's selection of books and expanded the children's and young adult/teen section.
"I bring my four kids by on a regular basis to check out the books," said longtime customer Michael Marino, who lives just a few blocks from the store.
The store also now offers new, popular books like the 50 Shades of Grey series, which Rosemary noted continues to fly off the shelves. All new books are sold at 15 percent off publishers' list price. The store accepts used books and offers a store credit in return (25 ¢ for paperbacks; $1 for hardbacks).
Besides the wide array of more recent and traditional used books, The Book Asylum also specializes in rare and hard-to-find editions.
"One of my favorite authors is Edgar Allan Poe, and I found a 1954 numbered copy of The Raven," said Lisa Moore, another Book Asylum regular.
The store offers a book-finder service, and customers can request specific titles. Jeff is also in the process of completing continuing education in book restoration, so soon the store will offer book restoration services.
In October, The Book Asylum will host its first seminar for aspiring novelists. "Anyone Can Be a Writer" will be held on Thursday, Oct. 18, beginning at 6 p.m. The event is free.
The Moores plan on offering a variety of writing and book-related seminars, book clubs and other community events throughout the year.
The Book Asylum is open Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m.; Friday from 4 to 10 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is closed on Monday and Tuesday.