One of my favorite parts of my recent trip to Vermont was getting a chance to visit Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center. The store was recommended to me by Ann and Michael of Books on the Nightstand, along with many other booksellers and the rest of the Twitter literati. Although the store was about an hour out of the way, Katy and I made the trip down to the big indie – and man, was it worth it.
Northshire is one of the best bookstores I’ve ever been in. In many ways, it is the ideal bookstore I picture in my head. Beautiful hardwood floors, unique shelves, and plenty of stock. Tons of bestsellers and just as many local and niche titles. A killer event schedule – Anita Shreve was signing the night I was in town – and tons of programs for customers. Enthusiastic, knowledgable booksellers. I was in heaven.
Chris Morrow, the store’s general manager and progeny of the store founders, was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer a couple questions about Northshire’s past, present and future.
Tell me a little bit about the history of the Northshire Bookstore. How long has it been at it’s current location in Manchester Center?
It was started by my parents in 1976. It has expanded many times over the years to our current 10,000 sq. ft. We have been in this location since 1985. We have been at this size, plus the cafe, since 2003.
The five-floor store stocks a ton of gifts, DVDs, video games, music and other fun stuff. Has the inventory always been this varied, or did the shop start out as a more traditional bookstore?
Originally, it was more just books but then customers asked for music and cards and calendars and… So we have listened to our customers for a long time to decide how to evolve the store.
One thing I loved about Northshire is the huge number of shelf talkers and staff recommendations. Is writing recommendations for the store and website encouraged, or have booksellers taken it on themselves? Is there anyone with a particular area of expertise or a real flare for these reviews?
Writing these is a part of the job description and is highly encouraged. Booksellers tend to have their areas of expertise and interest, so you will find the same name many times in certain sections but most of us are writing these regularly.
It really seems like the store has embraced the web and social media, with an e-newsletter, blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts, and a robust website with reviews and videos. Is the internet side of things a big part of Northshire, or are most customers still focused on the brick and mortar store?
I’d say most customers are still focused on the bricks and mortar, but we have always felt that it is important to stay current with new technological trends. We will be doing more in the coming year in this realm and hope to expand out customer base doing so.
Selects is a way for us to make it easy for customers to give a good gift that keeps on giving all year around with very little effort on their part. It also encourages reading in kids. We send the chosen recipient one book/month based on their interests. It is great.
Our author events have always been a big part of the store. It is a part of being a community center and exposing the area to the art and ideas in books. It is also good marketing for the bookstore. We have been very fortunate to get some world class authors here.
Many thanks to Chris for answering a couple questions for the readers of Brews + Books. Check out all the cool stuff on the Northshire Bookstore website, or swing by the store the next time you’re in (or near) Vermont. It’s definitely worth the trip.