Classics Books at 4 West Lafayette Street in Trenton is a bookstore, a community hub, a supporter of all-things Trenton, a supporter of kids who want to read, independent authors, knitters, Scrabble players, poets and book-lovers of all stripes. This month, Classics is turning 20 years old (15 of them in Trenton).
Classics Books came to Trenton into 2005 after being successfully recruited by the Trenton Downtown Association (TDA), as part of a movement to recruit retail businesses. Since then, empty dirt lots, gutted buildings and other locations now house a deli, a Starbucks, a private club, an empanada cafe, a raw juice presser and a BBQ smokehouse. Then TDA Executive Director, Matt Bergheiser, led a burst of growth on South Warren, where Classics started as part of a TDA co-op and then expanded to take over the entire space. Eventually, Classics moved to its current location at 4 West Lafayette.
In those 20 years, Classics has dealt in metric tons of books–books by African American authors, cookbooks, poetry, fiction, history, science, classic literature, art, science fiction, kids books. It sold first editions like The Cat in the Hat and leather-bound
In that time in Trenton, Classics distributed over 45,000 books to Trenton kids free of charge, through the Books at Home program, because having books at home has a dramatic effect on how long kids stay in school and how well they do. Students, parents and teachers can get books for free every day at Classics.
Classics does more to support independent authors than any bookstore. It has hosted book clubs and poetry open mics — supporting authors from neighborhood Shakespeares to Pulitzer Prize winning Yusef Komunyakaa. It has printed the Trenton Review, hosted booksignings and sponsored the 2008 Trenton Book Fair. It offers a $5 gift certificate to anybody who purchases a book from a local author.
For 20 years, Scrabble has been played on 960 Friday nights until midnight along with Cards against Humanity, the Name Game and Civilization. Classics goers knitted, and origamied, and discussed urban development. Classics hosted filming of music videos and film premieres, mayoral hopeful meet-and-greets, jazz bands, rock bands and belly dancers.
In 2020, The Bookshop on Lafayette Street was published by Ragged Sky Press, an anthology of stories and poetry that all take place at Classics Bookstore, with contributors that are Pulitzer Prize winners, newspaper columnists, theatre instructors, Dodge poets and more! The book includes the cozy clutter, secret rooms, the best customers in the world, the worst customers in the world, a McGuffin vortex, a cursed book, the insinuation of jazz, sanctuaries from a brutal world, the desire to be locked in a bookshop, and a little time travel.
In those twenty years, people made good friends, found jobs, built a life, built a community.
To celebrate Classics’ twentieth, one party didn’t seem like enough. How about five?
April 4 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., poet Todd Evans, host of the Capital City Open Mic, will host a poetry marathon with poets and musicians from all over Mercer County. FREE event.
April 11 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., the Classics at Classics Book Club will discuss The House on Mango Street and have a mango cocktail toast to Classics. FREE event
April 17 from 6 p.m. to midnight, the Trenton Scrabble Club will celebrate Classics’ Anniversary with a Return of the Champions, featuring past Tournament champions Megan Iurilli, Sarah Ohls, and Daniel Robinson. Birthday cake will be served. All skill levels are welcome. FREE event.
April 25 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., Trenton Knit and Stitch will have a champagne toast to Classics and have mini-sweet potato birthday pies. FREE event.
April 25 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., the Cards Against Humanity crew will celebrate Classics’ 20th with a champagne toast. FREE event.
PLUS, to celebrate Classics’ anniversary, throughout April, 1911 Smokehouse will be serving the Classics Martini (Titos, shaken not stirred). They will also be offering 10% off their flatbread. Go around the corner to 11 West Front Street and order them by name.
Throughout April, Arlee’s Raw Blends at 25 South Warren will also have specials to celebrate Classics’ 20th.
Also, Josue Lora will have a Classics Video Confession Booth, where you can come in and tell your Classics Bookstore story for our video yearbook. Saturday April 4 from 12 -2, Saturday April 11 from 1 to 3, and/or Friday April 17 from 8 to 10.