Trumbull's Next Chapter Books providing 'solid anchor' to downtown with extended hours

TRUMBULL — When Next Chapter Books opened at 2 Daniels Farm in the spring, there was abundant hope that it would be a community hub where people could meet, browse bookshelves and even have a cup of coffee or a baked good.

That goal is even reflected in the store's slogan, which is emblazoned on T-shirts and other marketing materials — "Meet Me at NCB."

So far, the new business is living up to those ambitions.

"We have people come to meet here and spend time," said Robin Luther, a special educator with Trumbull's ELITE program. "They love the interaction with the students."

ELITE — which stands for Educating Learners in Transition Environments — provides services, including job training and work opportunities, for students with disabilities. Students from the program make up most of the staff at Next Chapter Books.

Many said the store is already meeting its goals of providing valuable work experience for students and rejuvenating the Trumbull Center plaza in which it sits. But there are hopes that Next Chapter will get a bump in the next few months, due to a number of factors.

One of these is that the store recently added Saturday hours. The store had been open Monday through Friday but, starting Sept. 16, it will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays too.

"I think the Saturday hours they are planning will help attract people who can’t get there during the week," said Rina Bakalar, Trumbull's economic and community development director.

Next Chapter also got a recent financial boost, in the form of $2,500 donated by the town.

The town received the money from CT United Ride — the 60-mile-long motorcycle 9/11 tribute ride and fundraiser — because Trumbull was deemed the town with the most spectators and patriotic support along the route of the 2021 ride.  

After receiving the award, Trumbull could give the money to a charity of its choosing and, at the recent Board of Education meeting, First Selectman Vicki Tesoro announced that the $2,500 was going to the ELITE program to help support Next Chapter Books.

"As you know, this student-run business is giving our ELITE students an opportunity to make meaningful contributions to community while giving students an opportunity to learn lifelong skills," Tesoro said during the meeting.

ELITE students have worked in a variety of places over the years, including FYE in Westfield Trumbull Mall and some of the local schools. But Next Chapter was intended to provide them with an opportunity to learn more "real world" business skills, such as working a cash register and interacting with the public.

Lee Ann Schlatter — whose daughter Jenna, 21, is an ELITE student who works at Next Chapter — said she's impressed with the responsibility the students are given and the skills they have learned while working there.

Though she said the other businesses that offer job opportunities to ELITE students have been helpful, they arguably haven't prepared students for the working world the way the bookstore has.

"I really think it’s a launching program where they can learn and practice necessary skills they are going to need as they move forward in the world," said Lee Ann Schlatter, who is also president of Friends of ELITE, a nonprofit that supports ELITE and its students. 

Luther and John Wrobel, a program manager with ELITE, both said they've noticed an improvement in students' job skills since the store opened.

"We’ve seen huge growth among the students' skills," Luther said. "A lot of the tasks we are teaching one on one in the store, the students are now doing independently."

In addition to helping the students, Next Chapter Books also was intended to help burnish the image of the Trumbull Center plaza in which it sits. The plaza, which consists of multiple buildings, has multiple empty storefronts, but projects such as Next Chapter Books were expected to give it a boost.

In the short time it's been open, Luther and others said the store has been fairly successful both in providing students with comprehensive job experience and in energizing Trumbull Center.

Luther and Wrobel said the bookstore has offered multiple community events since opening, such as appearances by local authors, story times, and book club meetings. Bakalar said the store is "a great addition to Trumbull Center" and has potential to grow.

"I went in there the other day between meetings to get a cookie and drink," she said. "There was a live pod cast with an author underway.  Two local residents were having coffee and catching up.  Several customers stopped in to shop.  As people learn about Next Chapter, they are supporting it."

Lee Ann Schlatter agreed. 

"I think (the store is) just a wonderful benefit to our community at large," she said. "I think they have a solid anchor here."

For more information about Next Chapter Books, visit To learn more about supporting the store or ELITE, visit