No Borders, No Atlantic Books, No Worry.
ATLANTIC CITY — There has been a lot of talk about non-gaming attractions in Atlantic City to help draw more visitors to town — especially a different and more varied demographic.
There is already a wealth of non-gaming attractions in Atlantic City proper, with even more scattered throughout the region, from Cape May up to Smithville and beyond.
Top-tier golf courses dot the region like colored sprinkles on a Kohl Bros. ice cream cone, and the abundance of extraordinary, world-class dining and entertainment (concerts, clubs, Boardwalk people-watching) venues, as well as shopping (The Quarter, The Walk, The Pier Shops at Caesars) options just inside the city limits is remarkable. (And there is still a new phase of the Walk on its way, a possible arts district in the cards for the city, and other potential cultural and non-gaming attractions being considered for the future of Atlantic City.)
There are also a few family attractions, such as the Aquarium, the Free Public Library, the new Steel Pier, and, again, that magnificent stretch of wooden boards that run parallel to one of the world’s greatest treasures, the Atlantic Ocean.
You can find little hidden gems throughout the region, and Atlantic City has several.
One happens to be on the city’s other main thoroughfare — Atlantic Avenue — and has been there for 42 years, with its trademark “We Buy the Old” painted sign and its shelves of books along the outer-front of its brick exterior.
I have been meaning to stop by Princeton Antiques for several weeks, now. As I’ve driven past the place lately, the books out front seemed to be calling out to me: “C’mon, have a browse. Just take a look. You haven’t stopped by for a while.”
And especially now that both of our entire region’s two main book chains have closed for good — Atlantic Books and a little mom and pop operation called Borders — Ruffalo’s shop should be on every local book-lover’s list of places to visit.
Today, following a lunch meeting elsewhere in town, I pulled over in front of the store – finally.
All sorts of books were just sitting there on the massive shelving units outside the store, from early-edition classics wrapped in plastic, to large cookbooks, a plethora of scientific books and old journals, novels, Albert Camus masterpieces, collections of William Carlos Williams’ poetry, biographies, vintage children’s books, a few books on experimental film (I snagged one) and more on music, local history, art, photography, war … you name it.
And that’s just outside the place.
I took my time going through the shelves, turning my head to read the titles and author names along their respective spines, and pulling out chunks of books to peer into the shadowy second tier of books shelved behind the first row (it’s like that on several of the shelves I found out, so there are even more books out there than it would seem from a first glance).
Jitneys, cars and buses zipped by as the autumn wind blew through the pages of some of the paperback books I had piled on the cement next to my shoes. Aside from a few recent trips to the Atlantic City Free Public Library, I hadn’t seen such a collection of varied and cool old books in the area in a while.
Sure, there are other used book stores in Atlantic and Cape May counties, as well as a book store in Pleasantville and a few stores in the area where they also sell books — new or used — but nothing like Ruffalo’s place.
Once I walked through the front door of the Princeton, my arms full of awesome finds from the outer-regions of the place, I smelled the aroma of history.
Stacks of books, photo and post-card albums, antique lamps, a Persian rug on the ceiling, long rows of catalogued materials, and the man himself — Bob Ruffalo, sitting at his desk in front of a computer — greet you as soon as you walk in.
There is an overpowering sense of Atlantic City and regional history in this place, with scores of old photos, post cards, books, and other ephemera all catalogued and perched on the many shelves inside the store.
Princeton Antiques is well worth a visit, and not just if you are looking for an old book.
The Web site (princetonantiques.com) offers an array of services, including a “Bookfinding Librarians” book service, literary procurement and research, special services personalized to meet a customer’s needs, locating out-of-print books, and offering services to librarians, research labs, book collectors, law firms and a variety of other businesses.
As the Princeton Antiques’ Web site says, with 250,000 titles in stock, “It is likely that we have the book you need in stock at the time YOU need it.”
Princeton Antiques is located at 2917 Atlantic Ave., Atlantic City, NJ. Call them at (609) 344-1943 or visit the Web site (where you can search their massive inventory) and send an e-mail.
The store is open from 8:30am-5pm Monday through Friday, and from 8am-1pm on Saturday.
And I’m still thinking of the books I left behind.
But there’s always tomorrow.
And at Princeton Antiques, there’s always yesterday, too.
— Jeff Schwachter