Spotlighting Independent Bookstores in Honor of World Book Day: Pickwick Book Shop owner talks books

A mother, father and five children walk into Pickwick Book Shop, a baby blue independent bookstore located at 8 S. Broadway nestled in the village of Nyack.

They’re an Orthodox Jewish family from Pomona celebrating the end of Passover.

Whenever one of the children puts a book on the counter, the father smiles and says, “That’s another hour without screen time.”

The owner of the bookstore, Jack Dunnigan smiles back.

“It was so wonderful and they spent hours here, literally spent hours, and they just had so much fun. That’s what it’s all about,” Dunnigan said. “It was a joy, it was a real joy.”

Dunnigan didn’t always know that he wanted to get into the bookselling business, but it’s unsurprising having come from a family of bookworms.

“My parents were big readers and I went to the library all the time when I was a kid. We’re just
a family of readers,” he said.

In fact, his aunt was a graduate of Cornell University and was Head of the Department of English at Haverstraw High School.

“I was always very careful when I spoke to her. I didn’t want to make a mistake,” he said. “She was a rockstar.”

Dunnigan’s family has lived in Rockland County for years. Dunnigan grew up in Shanks Village after his father served World War 2 and later moved to Stony Point.

The bookstore, which opened in 1945, the end of the war, was founded by Herbert Sperber, a law student.

“It was originally a stationery store, and he was going to college in the city and saw that they had these great bookstores in the city,” Dunnigan said.

Sperber wondered why there weren’t any in Nyack and so, instead of practicing law, he decided to become a bookseller.

Overtime his shop became a local institution recognized by it’s towering piles of novels, non fiction , and everything in between.

“It was one of those things where, ‘How can I get more books in a small corner?’ You have to put them in a very systematic way where they’re classified by genre,” Dunnigan said.

Dunnigan can’t pinpoint any one single book that got him into reading, but expressed an enthusiasm for local authors and local history.

“It’s never one book as I always say. It’s always a collection of things. Memories,” he said.

When asked for a recommendation for his fellow Rocklanders interested in reading, the shop owner encouraged prospective readers to peruse “How Things Began…In Rockland County and Places Nearby” by Wilfred Blanch Talman and “The History of Rockland County, NY” by Frank Bertangue Green.

Dunnigan considers the County’s history a fascinating yet overlooked subject, specifically Rockland’s role in the American Revolution.

The bookseller finds it astounding how people who have lived in Rockland County may not even realize what their backyard originally was.

“Thank God for the Interstate Park because it’s preserved all of the history and the nature of this area, the county, so it’s wonderful,” he said. “I think that, especially this time of year, before the leaves come out, people should definitely just get a pair of binoculars, good hiking shoes and take a walk into the woods on some of the trails. The path is just marvelous.”

Dunnigan doesn’t have any one particular favorite author or genre, he describes his reading experience as “cross-pollination.”

“That’s the way reading is, cross-pollination. One thing leads to another, leads to another, leads to another. whether it’s nature, nature leads to gardening, nature leads to looking at birds,” Dunnigan said.

As for his recent reads, he just completed “Murder Your Employer: The McMasters Guide to Homicide” by Rupert Holmes, an author, composer, lyricist, playwright, arranger, conductor and singer songwriter who grew up near Nyack, as well as “West Dickens Avenue” by John Corbett, a Vietnam War veteran from Nyack.

Dunnigan also reads books by authors from various continents, including Europe, Asia and Africa.

“As I got older, I discovered many other authors from other areas of the world and it just sucked me into reading books in that region,” he said.

Come say hello at Pickwick Book Shop, where Dunnigan is sure to help you find a great read.

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