Maplewood Chamber to Honor Words Bookstore Owners

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Jonah and Ellen Zimiles, owners of [words] Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ

Jonah and Ellen Zimiles, owners of [words] Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ

It’s been more than five years since Jonah and Ellen Zimiles bought Goldfinch Bookstore on Baker Street and moved it around the corner to bigger digs on Maplewood Avenue.

Many may have thought the move and the expansion — even the purchase — foolhardy in an era when mega-bookstores and online shopping were decimating indie booksellers.

But the Zimileses had a vision. Special events, marketing and, most of all, connection with the community would make a success of Words Bookstore.

Now, the Maplewood Chamber of Commerce will honor the Zimiles at its Annual Distinguished Service Award Dinner on Friday, September 19, at the Maplewood Country Club, starting at 6:30 p.m.

The dinner is also a celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Maplewood Chamber of Commerce, which, as its mission states, “…encourage[s] the entrepreneurial spirit and foster[s] a positive image of Maplewood.”

The Distinguished Service Award has been presented to leaders in the Maplewood business and civic community for more than 60 years.

“We are honored to add Jonah and Ellen Zimiles to our long list of accomplished recipients,” read a release from the Chamber.

The release continued:

Jonah and Ellen moved to Maplewood in 1990 shortly before the birth of their first child, Liz. Jonah practiced for a dozen years before becoming head of PlannedGiving and Endowments at a major national charity. He left this position to spend six years as a stay-at-home father when the Zimiles’ second child, Daniel, was diagnosed with autism. Jonah went back to school at age 50 and received an MBA from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. Upon graduation from business school, Jonah and his wife, Ellen, founded [words], an independent bookstore in Maplewood, New Jersey, and a social enterprise created to provide vocational training for individuals with autism. Jonah has served on several non-profit boards and leadership positions, including The Children’s Institute, The Friendship Circle, LREI, and MetroWest ABLE.

Ellen Zimiles is a Managing Director and Head of Navigant’s Global Investigations and Compliance practice. She has more than 25 years of litigation and investigation experience. Ellen served as an assistant United States attorney in the Southern District of New York for more than 10 years. She was a partner in a Big Four accounting firm and then, in 2006, funded by private equity, founded Daylight Forensic, an investigative and compliance advisory firm. Ellen sold Daylight to Navigant in 2010. Ellen also serves on the Board of Advisors of Syracuse University College of Law.

Opened in 2009, [words] Bookstore has had over 70 individuals with autism work in its vocational training program. In 2011, Springboard Consulting named [words] Bookstore as the recipient of its Small Business National “Disability Matters” Award. New Jersey Monthly Magazine listed [words] Bookstore as Best Independent Bookstore in New Jersey for three consecutive years in their readers’ poll. Autism Speaks has presented [words] as one of 15 model Small Business employers of individuals with autism.

Special thanks to this year’s Dinner Sponsors: Navigant; BCB Community Bank; Autism Speaks; Clawson Architects; Winchester Gardens- A Springpoint Living Community; Rosenberg Rich Baker Berman; Joseph Spinelli; The Children’s Institute; Keller Williams Midtown Direct; Galer Coaching for Excellence; Mark & Risa Olinsky; Bass Family Chiropractic; RGG Communications, Reservations are required.

Tickets for the dinner are available for $100.

Contact Executive Director Rene Conlon, for additional information about tickets and sponsorship at 201-341-9554, or visit

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