Pia Ledina, owner of Turning The Page, an independent specialty bookstore that recently opened in Monroe, cheerfully admits to committing two cardinal sins for a new business owner: changing not only the name of a well-established bookstore, but its location as well.
“The need to change the name was sort of obvious,” she said, referring to the store’s former incarnation as Linda’s Story Time, a 20-year-old bastion of the town’s bookselling scene at 447 Monroe Turnpike named for owner Linda Devlin.
When a story ran in a local newspaper about Devlin’s plans to retire, Ledina — a longtime “school media specialist” (“I was a librarian,” she clarified) whose latest post was at Reed Intermediate School in Newtown — got in touch and the two hit it off.
However, Ledina said, some “wrinkles with the lease” and what she considered too small a space eventually led her to open Turning The Page at 477 Main St. in Monroe’s Clock Tower Square — less than four miles as the crow flies from Linda’s but considered “the other side of town” by residents.
“I couldn’t comfortably do all the things I want to do there that I can here,” Ledina said, noting that Linda’s — which is now being renovated as a florist — consisted of 970 square feet while the new store is 2,500 square feet. Author Lauren Tarshis (author of the I Survived and Emma-Jean Lazarus series for children) was on hand for Turning’s June 15 opening, drawing what Ledina said was a crowd of nearly 200 people. “Things would have been a little too cozy” at Linda’s, she added.
In keeping with Linda’s heritage, Turning specializes in children’s and young adult books, but bookshelves at its back include fiction and nonfiction titles for adults.
“One of my favorite things to do has always been to match kids to books that they might not even know exist,” she said. “A lot of kids start hating to read by the fourth or fifth grade, when it becomes more about work and less about reading for pleasure. When I have a parent come in who says their kid hates books, I get rid of the parent so I can have a conversation with the kid. As someone who’s outside of the school/parent situation I can really help.”
Thus the adult section is significant, she said. “It’s not the parent’s fault” that the child has come to dislike reading, she said, “but since they’re here as basically a mode of transportation, it’s nice to have something for them to do as well.”
Ledina said she would like to make Turning The Page not just a bookstore but a community resource, with book groups, author events and the formation of a Young Adult Council made up of 12-to-18-year-olds “who can have a voice in what happens in the store,” she said.
Early response to the store has been “excellent,” she said, “which proves that a community like this wants and needs an independent bookstore that’s mainly focused on children. I think there are only four or five of us in the entire state.”
The Newtown resident said that suggesting books to borrow at the school library isn’t entirely different from suggesting titles to buy. “I’m a huge believer in libraries,” she said. “And I’m a strong supporter of the Edith Wheeler Memorial Library in Monroe and the (Cyrenius H.) Booth Library in Newtown.
“You don’t have to buy every book,” she said before adding with a laugh, “although obviously I’d like my customers to.”
Having never owned a business before — she said there hadn’t been “any major problems yet” — Ledina said she decided to switch careers in the wake of the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which took 26 lives.
“I had just joined Reed when that happened,” she said. “I made myself a promise then that I’d stay there until the last group of kids at Sandy Hook had gone through Reed. I needed a change — to turn the page.”