When 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.