Highland Park Welcomes A New Bookstore

HIGHLAND PARK – As the year is ending, it will be the start of something new for Highland Park – Nighthawk Books.

Owner Steven Hart is aiming for a New Year’s Eve opening of what will be Highland Park’s only mainstream bookstore. But Nighthawk Books at 212 Raritan Avenue will be more than your average start-up bookstore, Hart said.


DVDs will be available for rent. Customers will have free wi-fi. Coffee, tea and pre-package foods will be sold. And a lunchtime listening series, featuring audio of books and poems, will be played in the store. Hart will start with “The Great Gatsby” because it’s his favorite book and move to “Their Eyes Were Watching God” as the second book, which will take him through February.

“We’re trying to be a literary cultural center that’s soaked in literature and words. It’s not going to be a fast-food approach to literature. We’re going to reinvent the bookstore,” Hart said.

The store will be open noon to midnight everyday day of the week, except Mondays, when it will be closed.

“The Nighthawk will be very literal,” Hart said of the hours.
Hart, who has lived in Highland Park since the late 1990s, said he wanted to open the store in the borough because of the resources and sense of community it offers.

“I like the mix of people here. There’s a very well educated, literate and scholarly population between the Rutgers community and the professional people who have a civilian interest in literature,” he said. “If you can’t make a bookstore fly in this town, you can’t make it fly anywhere.”

James McCrone, executive director of Main Street Highland Park, said Nighthawk Books will be “an exciting addition to the downtown mix.”
“Highland Park is certainly a city of readers. Based on the support and use the public library receives, this will be a welcome and worthy addition,” McCrone said.

Hart, whose book about the Pulaski Skyway, “The Last Three Miles: Politics, Murder, and the Construction of America’s First Superhighway” which was published in 2007, wants to support local authors and is planning to schedule as many writers as possible to do readings. He said there’s already a great deal of interest from writers in the area.

He’s also extending an invitation to local book clubs to use the small meetings rooms in the back of the bookstore.

The store will feature a large-screen television where author interviews and documentaries will be shown. And the space will also be available for private screenings and premier parties, Hart said.

While Nighthawk Books will offer all types of writings, People of the Book, offers Jewish-related books. People of the Book, 311 Raritan Avenue, opened Oct. 12 and offers books for research and discounted purchase.

The collection features nearly 5,000 books on subjects including Jewish holidays, biographies, women, relationships, young adults, self-help, arts and children.

People of the Book is open Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Monday, 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The store is closed Thursdays. For more information on People of the Book, call 1-732-745-7080.

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