Since Barrett Bookstore was founded 80 years ago, it has been through many changes, both big and small — and it has just gone through one more. It’s moving from 314 Heights Road to 6 Corbin Drive. The new location, at 3,600 square feet, is approximately the same size as its former one.
To celebrate the move and its 80th anniversary, Barrett is holding a grand reopening on Saturday, April 27, beginning at 9 a.m. Events include an author talk with debut novelist Erin Somers, who wrote “Stay Up with Hugo Best,”as well as a raffle and prizes, refreshments, and a story time for children given by State Rep. Terrie Wood.
The celebration will also coincide with Independent Bookstore Day, a one-day national party that takes place at independent bookstores across the country on the last Saturday in April.
Barrett’s move is part of the Corbin District, a redevelopment project that developer David Genovese is heading up in town. The project, a mixed-use redevelopment spanning from Corbin Drive to the Bank of America building on the Post Road, is expected to be completed in 2022.
“The Noroton Heights shopping center, where Barrett had been located for many years, is in the process of being redeveloped and they had no place to go,” Genovese said, when explaining the reason for the move. “We had been talking with [owner] Sheila Daley for years about the idea of relocating downtown, and when she called us due to the uncertainty she was facing, we worked hard to figure out a means of working together.”
Barrett is moving into a space that was originally Country Living Real Estate. It was then The Little Gym.
“When The Little Gym decided to close its locations in Darien, Ridgefield and Wilton, we leased the space to No Limit Fitness, a local fitness boutique, which has temporarily relocated to 36 Old Kings Highway South,” Genovese said. “When phase two of the redevelopment downtown is completed, No Limit Fitness will also relocate back into the development.”
“Barrett will be at 6 Corbin Drive, and then will move to a temporary space we propose to build on the other side of the street, and then, lastly, back to the center of the redevelopment,” Genovese said. “It is a lot of effort, but we believe it will be worth it in the long run for Barrett Bookstore and the other businesses we will be bringing to downtown Darien.”
Barrett Bookstore first opened on Broad Street in Stamford, in 1939. It was owned by Elizabeth Barrett. It later moved to Summer Street and David and Carol Rose purchased it.
“I do remember going with my mother to the Barrett Bookstore on Summer Street when I was about 10,” said Daley, a Darien resident. “My mother was a huge reader. We went in quite often.”
“They had the children’s section upstairs. It was just a treat,” Daley said.
In the 1970s, the store moved to High Ridge Road in Stamford.
During the 1980s, the Roses purchased the Book Shelf in Goodwives Shopping Center in Darien and in 1989, moved the Darien store to its Noroton Heights location. The High Ridge Road store closed around that time.
In 1997, when Daley and her late husband Thomas Daley read in The Darien Times that Barrett Bookstore was for sale, “we just jumped in,” Daley said.
Since taking over the business from the Roses, the Daleys have twice expanded the store.
Barrett Bookstore holds many scheduled events, such as active book groups and a series where authors come to talk about their books. The bookstore also partners with local organizations for additional events, such as book signings.
In 2011, Bill Clinton came to the store for a signing of his book, “Back to Work.” “Hundreds came,” Daley said. “Bill Clinton engaged every single person who came in.”
Barrett also partners with the NCC Foundation, which provides financial aid and scholarships to students, as well as the Center for Hope in Darien, and the Darien Community Center (DCA), and coordinated events with the Darien Library and the Stamford Nature Center.
According to Daley, while the growth of the Internet and e-books “really cut into our business” and a lot of independent bookstores closed their doors, Barrett Bookstore has held its own through eight decades.
Yet, she said, there now “seems to be a resurgence of independent bookstores.”
“Gradually, with the proliferation of laptops and iPhones, I think people got tired of looking at screens,” Daley said. “It seems like there was a reversal in the last five or six years back to physical books.”
Genovese said Barrett Bookstore is one of the iconic stores of Darien. “We intend to make them a centerpiece of our redevelopment in downtown Darien. By putting Barrett Bookstore next to some of the other stores and businesses we intend to bring to downtown Darien; we are confident that the business of Barrett will strengthen.”
Daley said she is happy the store will be “in a busier part of town with more foot traffic.”