Opening a business of any kind, let alone an independent bookstore, during a worldwide pandemic is no easy feat, but for Tom and Marlene England, it is a venture proving successful. In September, the couple, who already operate a bookstore and toy store in Frederick, Maryland, opened WordPlay, an “independent bookstore with an extra helping of fun,” in Wardensville, West Virginia.
“The idea has been percolating in our brains for about four years,” said Marlene, a West Virginia native. The couple were visiting the area and liked what they were seeing in the small town. “We felt like there was some good energy happening in Wardensville, and we wanted to be part of it.”
And the community has certainly rolled out the welcome mat. “We’re thrilled with the response so far,” Marlene said. “People have been super nice and welcoming.”
The idea behind WordPlay blends the two other businesses that the couple operates in Frederick: a bookstore and a toy store.
“The concept of WordPlay is kind of what it would look like if the two stores in Frederick had a baby, basically,” said Marlene with a laugh.
The shop is located in a newly renovated retail space that offers enough room for a sizable inventory without feeling claustrophobic, especially in this age of social distancing. The shop carries all of the usual genres: fiction, non-fiction, self-help, social justice, mystery, Young Adult, picture books, etc. There’s also an impressive selection of works by Appalachian authors.
“That’s the part I’m most excited about,” said Marlene. “I think it’s nice to give this much focus to some storytellers and authors that might not otherwise be heard as much. I love that we were able to group them all together here.”
In addition to books, WordPlay has a fun selection of family games, as well as toys, arts and crafts kits, and science kits for kids.
While the pandemic precludes WordPlay from hosting events, Tom and Marlene have big plans for the future.
“Once COVID disappears, we look forward to being able to do some events with local authors and authors from other parts of West Virginia, too,” Marlene said. “We’re excited to do some book clubs and events on our beautiful side porch.”
Until then, the shop’s impressive selection is enough to keep readers coming back.