Our History

Books on the Common was established in 1984 by Bob and Sally Silbernagel in a tiny 450 sq. ft. space on Danbury Road, realizing their life-long dream of owning a bookstore. Within a year, they became one of the first tenants in the new Copps Hill Common on Danbury Road, leasing 1,000 square feet at the rear of the new building. Just a few years later, they doubled that space and expanded into the adjacent space. Sadly, on May 16, 1991, Bob lost a long battle with cancer and passed away at the age of 49.  Sally kept the store going on her own with the help of new staff. The store faced fierce competition from the opening of nearby chain stores during those difficult years. The growth of online shopping and e-books added even more stress to the independent bookstore environment, forcing many to close.

Through it all, Books on the Common thrived, thanks to the loyal support of customers, who have supported the store all these years because they want to talk to other readers about books, to seek recommendations from a human being, not a computer program, and to browse among real, not virtual, bookshelves.  

bedients 2008 311 3002-1

After 20 years in business, Sally retired and sold the store to Ellen Burns and Darwin Ellis – two long-time Ridgefielders and avid readers. Ellen and Darwin maintained the friendly, comfortable atmosphere of the store while bringing it up-to-date by computerizing the store operations. In 2009, Books on the Common relocated 404 Main Street, a charming 120-year old building in Ridgefield’s historic downtown.

Now celebrating our 35th year in business, Books on the Common continues to serve our customers and support the greater Ridgefield area through the volunteer efforts of its owners and staff, contributions to local non-profit organizations, and providing a place for people to come together to discuss books, local politics, world affairs or anything else on their minds!


Ellen Burns


Ellen holds a B.S. and M.S. in accounting/taxation, and worked as a CPA for 39 years, in both public accounting and private industry. She has been very active in the Ridgefield community, serving on many town appointed boards & commissions and local non-profits. She is an ardent environmentalist, having co-founded the Ridgefield Open Space Association, which helped save nearly 500 acres of land as open space – now known as the Bennett’s Pond State Park. Her reading also includes both fiction and nonfiction, with a special interest in politics and current events.


Darwin Ellis


Darwin and Ellen both had lengthy careers prior to becoming booksellers in 2004. Darwin holds a PhD in Physics and Space Science from Rice University, and worked as a research scientist for Schlumberger in Houston, Ridgefield and Paris for 40 years. He is the co-author of a successful textbook used in graduate programs and in the oil industry (Well Logging for Earth Scientists, Springer, 2008) and holds more than a dozen patents for his research.   A native of Nevada, his reading preferences include both fiction and nonfiction, but his favorites are WWII novels, thrillers, and books set in the American west.

Sue Ranney_photo

Sue Ranney

Children's Buyer

Sue Ranney is a native New Yorker who holds a B.S. from Mercy College. She worked in marketing for IBM for many years before taking a hiatus to raise her two children. She has been an active volunteer for many organizations in Ridgefield, and joined Books on the Common in 2014. She now serves as the store’s Children’s and Young Adult book buyer and manager. In addition to her extensive reading of young adult and middle grade books, she loves adult fiction, especially psychological thrillers.

Looking for something in particular?

Give us a call at (203) 431-9100!  If we have it in stock, we’ll put it on hold for you.  If we don’t have it, we’ll order it for you and let you know when it arrives.   We place orders twice a day, and most books arrive the next day (2 pm deadline). You can also email us at info@BooksontheCommon.com.

Unfortunately, because the company that we used for our online store has withdrawn from the wholesale-retail business, we no longer offer books or ebooks for sale on our website.  If you can’t come into the store, please give us a call and we’ll be happy to help.