Paperback Exchange:
A book lover’s paradise in Belmar


By Elana Knopp
Staff Writer


Sharon Sanford is a self-described book lover, so who better to own a bookstore?

Located in Belmar, the independently-owned used bookstore offers something for everyone. Yes, this place is the real McCoy.

The Paperback Exchange was originally started by former owner Isabel Carlo in 1977 and located on 8th Ave in Belmar before it moved to its current location on Pyanoe Plaza.





Sanford said that she was a senior in high school when she discovered the book shop.

“I discovered it while hunting for a less expensive way to feed my book addiction,” Sanford said. “Isabel was a very cool lady. I’d scavenge the back room where she had books for 25 cents, then we'd chat a little. Snarky sense of humor, she had.”

Sanford went on to college and beyond, but she never forgot the special lady who owned the book shop.

“Years later, I remember thinking to myself one night, ‘I wonder if that bookstore is still there,’” said sanford. “It was, but it took a little searching to find it. She’d moved the store to its current location on Pyanoe Plaza, when the Plaza was built in 1982.”

According to Sanford, there was a small “Business for Sale” sign sitting on Carlo’s desk.

“I asked her about it. and she said she’d had it there a while, was in no hurry to sell, but was ready to retire and was thinking about it,” Sanford said. “There are some people you meet as you travel through life that you recognize as soon as your eyes connect. Iz and I were like that. We just knew each other.”After Carlo became ill, Sanford said, Carlo was ready to sell, and soon it was a done deal.

“The day before her surgery, she took me to Freehold, signed over the store, got me through getting the business license, and it was a done deal,” sanford said. “Eighteen months later she passed on at home. I still think of her often and am glad she knows that the store is still here.”

Although the store started with Carlo, it was Sanford that brought the store into the 21st century.










“Isabel had the original vision,”Sanford said. “I brought the store into the future - website, social media, accepting credit cards, local authors, etc.”

Sanford said that she carries a variety of genres for all reading tastes.

“My personal favorite is the sci-fi section, but we carry bits of pretty much everything,” she said. “A lot of what we have you could call ‘beach books.’ Summer fun reading like thrillers, romance, and literary fiction makes up the largest part of our inventory. Many of our readers come in also looking for classics and older, hard- to- find in the big box stores, books.”

One thing that sets Paperback Exchange apart from the rest is that customers can bring in their used books and get store credit towards the purchase of other books.   

"We’re an independent used bookstore, primarily,” Sanford said. “We know no one likes to throw away a book and we are a place you can bring your books and know that not only will you get credit for them, but you know they’ll find a new home. Most used bookstore credit systems only allow you to use your credit for up to half of the cost of your purchase. Here, we don't do that. Whatever credit you have can be used up to the full price of your purchase. We also will order books for customers who don't have internet access, or help them find books we don't have in stock from whatever seller may have it. Our motto is ‘Spend Less, Read More’ and we mean it.”

For Sanford. The Paperback Exchange is truly a labor of love.

“I love books,” Sanford said. “They expand your worldview, build a phenomenal vocabulary in the most fun way, teach, feed the imagination, communicate - I cannot imagine a life without them.”

Paperback Exchange is located at 703 1/2 Pyanoe Plaza (West end of Ninth Ave.) in Belmar.

They can be reached at 732-681-6829 or online at

Paperback Exchange
Image by JerseyShoreVibe
Sharon Sanford
Owner, Paperback


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