I left Shelton and Connecticut behind for college in 1999. Since then, I’ve returned to visit during holidays and the odd long weekend. When conditions at my job in Pennsylvania deteriorated, I decided to return to Connecticut with my wife and two daughters last September.
In my spare time, I struggle to weave words into stories, and it has become a great part of my life. My new day job, as a chimney sweep comes with the added benefit of driving through picturesque back roads like the scenic highway 80, which on a sunny autumn day, reminded me how beautiful Connecticut really is.
I’ve found a well of inspiration in the trees gracing the landscape with their fiery hues that made feel welcome back. I’ve also been to different dots on the map that left impressions on me that I’ll be sharing through these posts. This one belongs to a spot in Madison.
Although I’ve visited several states, few of them have small towns with the type of Old America identity of Madison. Its Historic District along the Boston Post Road presents an opportunity to flash to the past as one admires sites that hold their allure despite the passage of time like The First Congregational Church, the Memorial Hall and the old Academies, and the E.C. Scranton Library. The sense of history is further enhanced by a row of 18th and 19th century homes, including the Grave House; the oldest house in Madison (1685) just east of the green.
With all due respect to such impressive landmarks, my favorite spot is a block further; a green wooden facade located on the business strip just east of the Historic District. The gold letters on its sign above the inviting front door reads: R.J. Julia Booksellers.
During warmer days, flower baskets flank the doors and stand guard to wooden picnic tables where books await the browsing of passerby but it’s inside, where the real treasure is. The walls are lined, virtually from floor to ceiling with books, carefully grouped by genre or area of interest. The dark woodwork evokes a reverence normally reserved for Cathedrals. On cold days, you can enjoy the warmth of R.J. Cafe & Bistro when you browse for your next read, and drink one of the best cups of coffee.
What is unique about R.J. Julia is that the staff are readers themselves, and they do something I’ve never seen done in other book stores. They take the time to hand-write their own recommendations to display right along with the titles. I’ve left the store looking forward to delving into a novel that elicited the praise of the staff, and I have not been disappointed.
We live in an era where small businesses are forced to compete with huge conglomerates, think Mom and Pop little shops against Wal-Mart. Book stores, like R.J. Julia are a community treasure that speaks volumes about the town they serve and its people. And for this writer, the bookstore in Madison is one of the many places that have made me glad to be home again.