Julie Beddingfield, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week, was working as an attorney when she came across a Haddonfield bookstore closing down. Looking for a change and a chance to reboot her entrepreneurial spirit (she ran a cafe with her brother many years before that), Julie reached out to her sister, a bookstore owner in Florida. The two agreed this was an opportunity she shouldn’t pass up, and Julie set out to create an independent bookstore that had more than just shelves of books. Seven years later, Inkwood Books is a community spot where people come together to read, hang out and catch an event like a book signing, reading, poetry night, open mic, or book club. We caught up with this busy Haddonfield mom of twins, Oliver and Tobias, 18, to discover the childhood lesson which taught her about the value of books, why she included her family in her decision to launch her own business, and the local spot she frequents when she’s craving mole sauce like her grandmother used to make.
Tell us a little bit about your background. Growing up in Winter Haven, FL as the daughter of a school teacher mom and a citrus farmer dad, I’m a country girl at heart. My husband, Thomas Janssen, and I have been married for 21 years and have twin boys, Oliver and Tobias, 18, who just started college. We also have a cat, Shadow. We lived in North Carolina before moving to NJ for my husband’s job. I love living in Haddonfield—it has such a strong sense of community, and you can easily walk everywhere, which is especially great when you want to have dinner in town.
Please share a bit about your career background and the “aha moment” that led you to open your bookshop. I was a practicing attorney working in Philly and was miserable reading briefs all day—I knew I needed a change but wasn’t sure what it would be. Then, one day when I was walking in downtown Haddonfield, I came across a little bookstore closing, and I texted my sister, who owned the original Inkwood Books in Tampa, Florida. We agreed that Haddonfield needed an independent bookshop done right—one that would be a real gathering place for people—and I knew that this was what I needed to do. Before I went to law school, I owned a coffee shop with my brother and a friend, so I’d been a business owner. But while I was excited about the prospect, I might not have done it if there was a great bookstore around. I’m glad it worked out this way.
What did your prior experience as an entrepreneur teach you? I learned how much hard work owning a business is–I knew I wouldn’t be able to sit around and read books all day. When you’re a business owner, it’s like having another child. You’re responsible for it and have to take care of and nurture it, whether it’s convenient or not. The concept of opening a business and its creative parts are so much fun, but you still have to take care of the “business end” and do things like clean the toilets and take out the trash.
Do you have a favorite book or genre? I’ve always been a big reader—growing up, my siblings and I were never allowed to be bored because there was no excuse not to pick up a book and read. I don’t necessarily have a favorite, but To Kill a Mockingbird was my mother’s favorite book. When I read it in middle school, my mom and I discussed it together. We had an adult conversation, and probably for the first time in my life, I saw how books connect people in a unique way.
What’s the best thing about running Inkwood? I get to be in this space and be surrounded by book people. They love books and love reading and discussing books, and they also love and appreciate those who write books. I’m grateful for all the connections I’ve made in this community because I have this store.
What do you hope your sons have learned from you owning Inkwood? When I was thinking about leaving the law, we sat down as a family and let them be a part of the decision-making process because it would affect their lives too. I had a significant career change in doing this, and I think the lesson is that it’s okay and good to take risks and try new things, and no matter what field you’re in, you get out of a career what you put into it.
Please share a story related to Inkwood Books that will always stick with you. One of our first customers would come in weekly with her son and her elderly dad, Dr. Javidian. He only spoke Persian to her, but he’d sit in a green chair for long periods reading books from all different genres, including edgy, feminist ones, while she perused the shop with her son. Sometimes I’d take photos of him and post them on our Instagram site, where I’d given him his very own hashtag. Unbeknownst to me, he got a kick out of that, and after he passed away, his daughter brought in an envelope in Arabic–he’d left a generous gift for us. Since then, I’ve put a plaque bearing his name on the green chair, and I’m also planning on starting a non-profit to funnel books to needy places. It struck a chord in me to realize that we meant that much to him. When you hear stories about making a difference in the world, I think people often feel like they need to do something huge. Still, sometimes it’s just being who you are and impacting people in little ways that will make the most significant difference in a real, meaningful way. I think that’s something we can all learn, regardless of how young or old we are.
How have e-books affected your business? When I opened, e-book sales were trending down, and book sales were trending up, and from my experience, the pandemic only furthered that because it’s a very different experience having a book in your hands. I find people are trying to get off their devices and live more present and less plugged-in lives.
What are some of your family’s favorite places to go in NJ and things you like to do together? My guys are super outdoorsy, so when we go out as a family, whether hiking or kayaking—I just try to keep up. The Delaware Water Gap and the NJ Pinelands are favorites.
What are some of your favorite NJ businesses, and what do you love about them? For the most part, I never frequent chains, and in this part of the state, there are so many great small businesses. My newest favorite is The Refill Market because it reduces the waste you put out into the world and makes you feel good. I’ve used them dozens of times for dishwashing soap, laundry detergent, and so many other things, and their products are all-natural and fantastic. I also love El Nopalito, a Mexican place right across from us. My grandmother was Mexican, and their mole sauce is the closest thing to being back with her. And Occasionette is my go-to shop for gifts. It’s also inspiring, and the owner makes everything incredibly beautiful.
What’s your best advice for an NJMOMpreneur just starting her business? Hire people to help you from the beginning. Moms try to do it all, and that’s unsustainable. Have someone help you from day one so you have some backup.