With its colorful displays, whimsical gifts and fresh roasted coffee, NoKa Joe’s is already a magnet for parents and kids from Katonah and near by.
It’s about to become an even bigger draw for families when Judy Moody and the Magic Tree House are sold upstairs from the lattes and jellybeans.
The new children’s bookstore will be called Little Joe’s Books and it opens on the second floor at 25 Katonah Ave., this October.
The decision for owner Jennifer Cook to open a children’s bookstore was multi-faceted—she loved the idea, she wanted to fill a void left by the closing of in Mount Kisco, and she wanted to respond to customers who told her over and over to open a bookshop. In fact, on a recent survey of her customers on how to improve her store, “open a bookstore” was the top response.
“I love books,” said Cook, whose father was a doctor and mother a junior high school librarian who organized the family library by the Dewey Decimal system.
“But I assumed I’d be crushed by Borders. But now, the nearest bookstores are in Ridgefield and Pleasantville. The day the fixtures went on sale at Borders, my husband [Bedford town councilman, Peter Chryssos] told me it was now or never,” said the 50-year-old businesswoman.
Her shop arrives just after the big-box store sells off the last of its inventory and locks its doors. In fact, the Little Joe's will be lined with 11 huge bookshelves and some accessories Cook purchased from Borders. In addition, Cook promises, cozy rugs and chairs and a table will encourage shoppers to linger and socialize.
The space at 25 Katonah Avenue has undergone several transformations since Cook first leased it in 2001. First, Cook took over existing flower business, the Enchanted Florist, and sold gifts upstairs. When she replaced flowers with fresh-roasted coffee and eclectic gifts five years later, she continued the gift shop but later moved furniture upstairs and sold it on consignment. It’s also been an art gallery and jazz music stage.
Solidifying a new brand for the space is a goal with its new name, Little Joe’s Books.
“I wanted a break from NoKa; it’s been so many things that it has no brand left. But still, I still wanted some connection with our existing business downstairs—so NoKa Joe's, and Little Joe's Books.”
The winning name was submitted by Stephanie Scott and selected from over 100 customer-submitted suggestions.
A former Wall Street marketing director, Cook’s professional experience has involved hiring, managing departments and a lot of “take this project and figure it out,” she said. Even with her entrepreneurial bent and business savvy, she’s never run a bookstore and is receiving some advice from her sister, who owned a bookstore in Cook’s hometown of Old Saybrook, CT.
And what books will stack the shelves?
“I’m open to suggestions,” she said. “I’m working with a wholesaler, and they help select titles—but I’m also consulting with my sister and some local residents who have great ideas.”
She also plans to carry “games that are smart” and other gifts, but the shop will be “first and foremost a bookstore,” Cook said.
Known to many as “Noka Jen,” the former president of the Katonah Chamber of Commerce and Katonah resident of over 20 years is excited about the next chapter in her business life and hopeful for its success.
“Maybe in this world of Amazon and Kindle downloads, children’s books will be an area not picked away. I know that as a mom, I wanted to feel a pop-up book—and kids want tactile experiences, toddlers want to chew the bath book. I love our role in family life in Katonah, and I hope it’s the right business segment for the town.”