Northshire Bookstore continues to grow in challenging times
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | September 16,2013
PATRICK MCARDLE / Staff photo
The Northshire Bookstore is placing this sculpture, seen here outside the store in Manchester, in its new “reader’s park” which is expected to be complete by October. While many independent bookstores are struggling, the Northshire recently added a second site in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and continues to attract best-selling authors for store appearances.
MANCHESTER — While economic recovery is still soft and many independent bookstores have struggled to compete with larger chains and Internet retailers, Northshire Bookstore has recently opened a second location. It has also announced appearances by best-selling authors and moved forward to finish a reader’s park outside its Manchester store.
Chris Morrow, owner of the store, agreed that things were going well for Northshire Bookstore.
“We’re working very hard. We have an excellent staff right now. We opened the Saratoga (Springs, N.Y.) store on Aug. 5 so it’s been a little over a month and that’s been going well,” he said.
Northshire employs about 35 people in Manchester and about 20 in Saratoga. Those numbers include part-time employees.
The store in New York is the first time Northshire has opened a second location since the original was founded in 1976. The new location is about 80 percent of the size of the Vermont store and has already hosted the Northshire’s most popular event, an appearance by fantasy and comic book author Neil Gaiman, which attracted about 1,700 people.
“Saratoga is a great small city that’s very eclectic and independent-minded and arts-oriented. There’s a lot of educated, upper-income people who appreciate what we have to offer so it’s really a great fit for us,” he said.
Northshire has developed a partnership with the Paramount Theatre which will bring author David Sedaris, radio personality Ira Glass and Garrison Keillor, who is both an author and a radio personality, to Southern Vermont and author Anne Rice is scheduled to appear at the New York store.
The bookstore also got increased visibility recently because of the roundabout project that replaced the intersection of Routes 11/30 and 7A which once had the nickname, “Malfunction Junction.” Morrow said that while it was difficult when construction was taking place, which was primarily in 2012, the results made it easier to get in and out of the store.
The roundabout also inspired the creation of the reader’s park which will have the Thomas Jefferson sculpture by New Haven artist Dennis Sparling as its centerpiece. Sparling refurbished the sculpture for its move from the former Jelly Mill, also in Manchester, to the Northshire.
Morrow said the park will be made from marble and granite pieces with gardens designed and installed by Ogden & Chalmers of Landgrove. The project is expected to be complete by the end of October.
Last week, Northshire was notified that it had won the Book Publishers Representatives of New England’s Independent Spirit Award. An email announcing the award said that nominations come from other bookstores and then members vote “on the store we most believe stands for all that is great in New England bookselling.”
The store was founded by Ed and Barbara Morrow who remain involved in what happens at the store and in the town of Manchester. Ed Morrow is a regular presence at municipal meetings and Barbara Morrow pitches in at the store from time to time.
Morrow said his parents enjoyed the process that led to the new site.
“They enjoy seeing something they’re created expand and evolve. It’s been nice to have their participation,” he said.
At a time when bookstores are struggling, Morrow said he believed there were a few reasons Northshire was able to thrive.
“Overall, it’s a certain aesthetic that my parents created and I try to maintain and enhance that. (It) involves the physical space being uplifting and interesting and welcoming; the selection being very refined and well-thought-out and broad; and our staff who are just an incredible bunch of booksellers and buyers. ... In the age of Amazon, there’s room for what we offer,” he said.