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November 16, 2011

A Big Bookstore for Burlington ... in the Works

Sota-booksWhen Borders announced the closing of its Burlington store, everyone wondered how long the city could remain without a downtown bookseller. Well, not that long. First, Church Street’s Crow Bookshop — known for used books — started selling more new titles. Now comes promising news from Renée Reiner and Michael DeSanto, who own Phoenix Books in the Essex Shoppes and Cinemas. (They're shown here in 2007, about to open that store.)

In Phoenix’s holiday catalog, to be published next week as an advertising insert in the Burlington Free Press, the couple announce that they “are engaged in an effort to open a bookstore in downtown Burlington. We plan to keep the Essex store open and establish a nearly 6000-square-foot store on or near Church Street within five months,” their statement continues.

Because they’re still negotiating a lease, Reiner and DeSanto can’t specify the store’s likely location. But DeSanto does say, by phone, that they are “looking for the community to be really involved in this bookstore.”

What does that mean? When Borders closed, some locals speculated that an indie bookseller might be able to draw on community support, just as Claire’s Restaurant and Bar in Hardwick drew on demand for its locavore cuisine. “To make something like this work these days, it needs to be a community-sponsored effort,” Paul Bruhn, director of Preservation Trust of Vermont, told Kevin J. Kelley for an article in this paper.

While bookstores aren’t restaurants, Reiner and DeSanto confirm they’re contemplating a business model “philosophically” similar to that of Claire’s. “We believe that the future can be profitable for a unique, local and independent front-list bookstore in downtown Burlington,” their statement reads. “We're inviting people who are interested in making this project come about to get in touch with us.”

It’s a bold move to open a bookstore in 2011 — but it was when the couple opened Phoenix, too. They recently added an art gallery to their store and café, which hosts regular readings and events.

“We’re very excited,” Reiner says of their plans. And, she adds, “we have every reason to think we're going to be successful at doing it.”

How much do local readers want a big downtown space to browse, buy, hear authors read and do all the other fun things you can do with actual printed books? We'll find out.

Go Michael and Renée!! If anyone can do it, these two can. What a great addition this kind of store would make for downtown.

imo, i don't see this being a very good idea. amazon just released their kindle fire this week. technology will kill bookstores as it is now in the process of. why invest in old technology. the only benefit i see for this is another place college kids to go to work and study.

Chassman and Bem was a wonderful store way back when. What I really wish is that there was a bookstore in Williston to fill a gap between movies and restaurants in Taft Corner.

Until Amazon produces an ereader that has a longer shelf life than a book; until it produces an ereader that doesn't need to be recharged; until it produces an ereader that can inexpensively be replaced; until it produces an ereader that can easily be loaned to a friend, there's always going to be a market for printed books.

Just because the market has dwindled doesn't mean that it's becoming extinct. By focusing on the majority of younger generations and minority of older generations who have flocked to ereaders means overlooking the minority of younger generations and majority of older generations who still prefer paper to plastic. With good management and understanding of the market, a bookstore can not only survive in this economy, it can thrive.

Here's hoping this proposal comes to fruition so that I have a new place to buy my books.

I think that it's a great idea,Where Crow books are a nice place to get used books(I buy there at least once or twice a month), we need a place down town where we can just graze while looking for new and used books. Besides, I feel that we are letting technology get beyond our basic needs,and we'll end up like Kurt Vonnegut's "Fahrenheit 451" with only special (read outlaws) memorizing specific books to quote to keep the book alive. Perhaps I'm old fashioned and out of date, But I prefer curling up in an easy chair with a book to read rather than a little electronic gizmo.

I don't know if it will work or not, but I sure hope it does. I love that these two are giving it a go and have the chance to demonstrate how "out of the box" Vermont can be!

This model would seem to fit perfectly with the soul of Chittenden County - Good luck!

This is so heartening. See also today's NYTimes article about novelist Ann Patchett opening a bookstore in her community. She suggests that we all must take responsibility for keeping bookstores alive:

If Hardwick can support an indy bookstore (Galaxy Books) and Johnson can support an indy bookstore (Ebenezer Books) then Burlingon can surely support a couple of them.

The Crow is great. You find amazing stuff in there that you'll NEVER be able to get on an e-reader.

Someone should bring back Chasmen and Ben (sp?).

(I'll admit that I enjoy shopping in Barnes & Noble.)

Fahrenheit 451 is by Ray Bradbury, not K.V. -- otherwise, I'm with Chuck Avery all the way!

I'm thrilled. I just had to explain to my daughter that we couldn't go to the bookstore and look at books because it was closed. Independent and small bookstores offer magic that Amazon can't compare to. I look forward to supporting them.

I'm sure that your daughter would love a trip to the library.

Stores will come and go -- but we all need to support our local libraries. They are amazing places.

I have a Kindle, a library card, and I buy books at the Crow. I don't think we live in an 'either / or' world - it's a world of 'both / and'. I use the 'K', the card, and the Crow - I think I would use a new book store downtown as well. Keeping the downtown vital, strong, attractive, relevant - a new BS would be a welcome addition.

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