By Susan Miele
Oct. 16, 2019: While some people look forward to winding down as they near retirement age, Morin and Barbara Bishop don’t seem destined for that lifestyle just yet. Instead, they purchased Womrath Bookshop.
Womrath has been a Bronxville fixture for some 80 years, with the Sgarlatas at the helm for nearly half of them. They wanted to see the store sustained in the right hands. “It’s a vocation,” Gene said. He and Wanda stayed on for six weeks following the store’s sale to help train the Bishops for success, providing guidance in every aspect of the business, including purchasing. Even before the sale was finalized, Morin shadowed Gene for a month.
“We’re profoundly grateful to Gene and Wanda for getting us started here and making sure we know what they’re doing,” Morin said. “We’re really, really grateful.”
The Bishops have no retail background, but both husband and wife have worked in publishing for nearly as long as the Sgarlatas operated Womrath. Barbara is a graphic designer, and Morin is a writer and entrepreneur. Morin's career includes six years as a writer/reporter at Sports Illustrated, twelve years running his own custom publishing company (Bishop Books), seven years as Editorial Director of a custom publishing company, and most recently President, editorial director, and co-owner of an editorial services firm, specializing in the creation of editorial content for books, magazines, digital communication, and custom publications.
The Bishops have great respect for the store’s heritage and are confident they are inheriting an established entity in a community peppered with bibliophiles. “We’re also grateful to Gene and Wanda for the tremendous work they’ve done over the last 35 years in developing a really faithful clientele. I’ve had more great conversations about great books in the last month than I’ve had in the last decade,” Morin noted.
A few changes are in the works, though these aren’t likely to be objectionable, even to longtime Womrath devotees. The changes will include improved in-store signage to highlight various genres, a customer seating area (and possibly self-serve coffee), and warmer lighting. The Bishops also plan to host frequent in-store events, including author readings and book discussions. Store hours will likely expand, with the opening time at 10:00 am and closing time, perhaps 7:00 pm. And, in keeping with the times, an expanded social media presence is planned.
The inventory, however, is not changing. “Gene was a master. I sat at the feet of a master and learned how to order from him--arguably the most important task,” Morin noted. Morin also loves to discuss books, a quality of the Sgarlatas’ that helped them earn a loyal customer following. Moreover, Kathy, who assisted the Sgarlatas for some 30 years, is also staying on and will be a great resource for continuity and know-how.
Morin’s father was a pastor in Rye. Barbara sees common ground, noting that Morin's new role at Womrath will enable him to connect with the community via books --almost like a retail pastor.
“This is where we live. The idea of contributing to it and strengthening it appeals.”
Pictured: Morin and Barbara Bishop
Photo by A. Warner