Phoenix News

  • News Release — VCFA, Phoenix Books
    Sept. 25, 2017

    Tim Simard

    Major Gift by leading independent bookstore will honor iconic Vermont writer

    Montpelier, Vt.—Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA) and Phoenix Books, a Vermont-based independent bookseller, have announced the creation of a new VCFA scholarship that honors late author Howard Frank Mosher.

    Called the Phoenix Books Howard Frank Mosher Scholarship, the $10,000 award will be merit-based and given annually to an emerging fiction writer from Vermont in his or her first year of VCFA’s MFA in Writing & Publishing residential program. The first scholarship will be awarded in the 2018-2019 school year. Phoenix Books provided the gift and funding for the purpose of an annual MFA in Writing & Publishing scholarship, said VCFA President Thomas Christopher Greene.

    “Phoenix Books embodies the spirit of independent booksellers in the state and we at VCFA couldn’t be more grateful for their generosity and to partner with them on this project. This scholarship is a wonderful tribute to Howard Frank Mosher who was a giant in Vermont. Howard was the first significant writer to support my own work many years ago and we became personal friends. No writer was better known in this state and among his peers for his generosity,” said Greene. “Phoenix Books has stepped up in a big way in a manner that Howard would appreciate, nurturing a new generation by providing opportunity that otherwise might not be available.”

    “Michael DeSanto and I and Phoenix Books are honored to create this scholarship at VCFA. Howard was a great supporter of this institution and I believe he understood its intrinsic value to writing, to writers, and to the arts. Our hope is that this scholarship will support the works of new emerging Vermont writers, which Howard and VCFA have both done so well,” said Renee Reiner, co-owner with Michael DeSanto of Phoenix Books.

    Mosher, who lived in Irasburg, Vt., was the award-winning author of 13 books that mostly took place in and around Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. He passed away in January 2017 after a short illness. His last book, “Points North,” will be released this January.

    “This scholarship is the perfect way to honor Howard’s memory. He always tried to help new and upcoming writers by offering them advice, and often times encouraged them to pursue an MFA. He was also a champion of local bookstores. He used to say that independent booksellers were the ones that made him a success,” said Mosher’s widow, Phillis Mosher.

    Greene and poet Daniel Lusk, speaking on behalf of Phoenix Books, announced the scholarship’s creation during the third annual Vermont Book Award Gala held at VCFA on Sept. 23, 2017. Mosher was a judge for the 2015 Vermont Book Award and this year’s gala was dedicated to him.

    Posted 10/03/2017
  • Phoenix Books Essex has announced that the store will move to a larger space in late July of this year. The new location is at 2 Carmichael Street in Essex, just around the corner from the bookstore’s current home at Essex Outlets.

    Phoenix Books was founded in Essex in 2007 by Michael DeSanto and Renee Reiner, and has since added locations in Burlington, Rutland, and Chester, Vermont, plus a sister store in Woodstock. DeSanto reaffirmed the store’s commitment to Essex, and said that the new lease is for ten years or more. ”We love this community, and our customers have been strong supporters of Phoenix Books,” said DeSanto.

    DeSanto adds that, since the business has expanded (and he does not rule out the possibility of adding additional stores in the future), the Essex location needs more office, shipping and receiving and storage spaces, which the larger location will provide. The additional space will also allow Phoenix Books Essex to increase inventory, expand bargain book offerings, explore the possibility of selling used books and better serve the community through partnerships with schools, offsite events and other local organizations.

    The new space also has other advantages, including high visibility from Route 15, which boasts 15,000 cars per day driving past the location. “Every car that goes by will see our signage and know there is an indie bookstore right here,” said Renee Reiner. She notes that Carmichael Street is home to a number of locally owned businesses. “We think the local flavor of the pet shop and the restaurants are a good fit for us, and the new spot is just a short walk from our current location.”

    Construction has already started under CedarLedge Builders with design by Joshua Nase. Reiner is supervising the construction and buildout on the space, which she says will include “a play area for children as well as lots of comfortable chairs for adults to review their book selections.”

    There will not be a café in the new location. DeSanto acknowledges that some customers will miss this amenity, but notes that the new space is adjacent to a Dunkin Donuts, and steps away from My Little Cupcake, Mimmo’s, Cody’s, and Joyce’s Noodle House, giving customers several choices for refreshments before or after their visit to Phoenix Books.

    The store’s current lease at Essex Outlets doesn’t run out until the end of September, which will allow for a quick and efficient move.  “We expect to close for less than a week during the actual move,” notes General Manager Colleen Shipman.  “And we have exciting plans in the works for a celebration of Phoenix’s ten-year anniversary in the new space this September.”

    “Every so often,” says DeSanto, “a bookstore, or any business, must reinvent itself by rising up from the ashes of its older self to emerge as a newer, more modern and improved version of the original. So Phoenix will do over the summer of 2017.”



    In the news:


    Posted 06/02/2017
  • Phoenix Books funds sculpture, honoring Vermont author Rudyard Kipling, in second of planned downtown series

    Work on the first carving announced in a planned series of historical stone sculptures in downtown Rutland will begin in August - but organizers say the “second” sculpture will be completed before the first.

    The second planned project, a tribute to “The Jungle Book” and famed Vermont author Rudyard Kipling, will be funded by the owners of Phoenix Books Rutland, Michael DeSanto, Renee Reiner and Tom and Tricia Huebner. The marble monument will be created by Artist in Residence Sean Williams at the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center this summer. It will feature a copy of the landmark children’s book open on a bookstand, three-dimensional characters rising off the pages. The sculpture will be installed on Center Street, west of the bookstore, at a height designed to invite children’s curiosity.

    DeSanto, who with his partners opened Phoenix Books Rutland in 2015 with help from more than 50 local families, said he was intrigued by plans for “Stone Legacy,” the first sculpture announced in the series. “The arts are incredibly important and can play a tremendous role in creating beauty and a sense of pride in a community,” DeSanto said. “Rutland has so much to be proud of, including its wonderful downtown, so we jumped at the opportunity to add to its character. We owe so much to Rutland, and this is a way of saying ‘thank you.’”

    Tricia Huebner, who manages the Rutland store, said she and her husband were equally pleased to support the project, in part in hopes it will prompt others to step forward to support future additions to the sculpture series. “How many folks know that ‘The Jungle Book’ was written in Vermont?” Huebner asked. “Once this is complete, every person who walks down Center Street will see this fabulous piece of art and learn a little about our history. We’re hopeful these projects will multiply, accentuate the beauty of downtown Rutland, tell some of our history, and create a significant draw for locals and tourists alike.”

    Williams, who has a lengthy resume of commissioned public and private art, said he was enamored with the thought of helping build community through art. “I was immediately drawn to the project and began working on clay concepts as soon as I was approached with the possibility,” Williams said. “As a Barre artist, I am thrilled that my work will stay in the Green Mountain State and help add life to a community I’ve long thought of as my city’s soulmate. Barre and Rutland have always been tied to the stone industry and the tradition of craftsmanship our forebears created.”

    “The Jungle Book” project is a partnership with by Carol Driscoll of The Carving Studio and Sculpture Center in West Rutland and Steve Costello from Green Mountain Power and Rutland Blooms, who solicited funding from Phoenix Books Rutland. Gawet Marble and Granite Company and Green Mountain Power have provided logistical help, and Rutland Blooms will provide funding for installation.

    “I’ve had a love for ‘The Jungle Book’ since I heard the album that came out with the Disney film 50 years ago, when I was 4 years old,” Costello said. “I knew Kipling wrote the original stories in Vermont, so as we thought about possible subjects and funders for the sculpture series, ‘The Jungle Book’ and Phoenix Books seemed a natural fit. Within days of floating the idea, we had their commitment to fund the project.” MKF Properties and Green Mountain Power commissioned the roughly 20-ton “Stone Legacy” sculpture as a tribute to the thousands of quarry workers, stonecutters and artists who built the stone industry in Rutland County. That sculpture is a collaboration between U.S and Italian artists and artisans at the CSSC in August, using stone donated by Vermont Quarries in Danby, Vt.

    “This all started as a celebration of our 30'th anniversary, initially conceived as a one-off project,” said Driscoll, executive director of the CSSC. “As Steve, Mark and I talked about additional concepts and funding sources, it quickly became evident that we had tapped into something special, and we are already considering ideas for future sculptures to honor men and women who contributed to our history.”

    Organizers plan a multi-year project that includes the addition of at least one major piece annually in downtown Rutland. The third sculpture, in the very early planning stages, is expected to feature Rutland resident Ann Story, who was a pioneer, Revolutionary War-era spy, and American hero. Other figures under consideration include “Snowflake” Bentley, Rutland’s John Deere, Norman Rockwell, Ethan Allen, Dorothy Canfield Fisher and Alexander Twilight, among others.

    Foley and Driscoll had been talking about a possible project when Costello, who founded GMP’s Rutland Blooms project, visited Rapid City, S.D., last fall, where sculptures of every U.S. president have created a huge tourist draw. Rutland Blooms is a citywide beautification effort, based on volunteerism and using donations from the business community, that has planted hundreds of flowering crabapple trees over the past four years. Costello came home intent on expanding Rutland Blooms’ focus into history-based public art. After speaking with Foley, they agreed to collaborate with Driscoll on “Stone Legacy” and eventually on a series of sculptures.

    “‘Stone Legacy’ and the sculptures that follow will help teach visitors and locals alike about this community and state,” Foley said. “From heroes to artists to everyday people who did extraordinary things, we want to honor those who made Rutland and Vermont the special places they are today.”

    Posted 05/22/2017
  • Phoenix Books is featured in the Spring 2017 issue of Vermont Life!  Check out the story on p. 50, or find it here, in the digital edition of Vermont Life.

    Posted 03/15/2017
  • On February 11th, an event was held at Phoenix Books Rutland to celebrate the release of the book We Are One Rutland. This book was written by kids from the Rutland City Boys & Girls Club and designed by students at the Stafford Technical Center. The book is a collection of interviews with people in the Rutland area who bring diversity to the community. All proceeds from sales of the book go to the Boys and Girls Club. Phoenix Books Rutland still has copies available for sale.

    During the event Dr. Alis Headlam, who managed the book project, was on hand to sign copies, as were some of the student authors and designers. Rutland City mayor Christopher Louras attended the event and purchased copies of the book to give to the Syrian refugee families who have recently resettled in Rutland. Phoenix Books Rutland assistant manager Will Notte volunteered his time to edit the book and was presented with a copy at the ceremony.

    Phoenix Bookseller Will Notte and
    We Are One Rutland coauthor Jeremy Gillespie.

    Posted 02/23/2017
  • Phoenix Books Misty Valley’s annual New Voices event took place on Saturday, January 28 at the First Universalist Church in Chester’s Stone Village.  New Voices 2017 presented five promising debut authors to talk about their work.


    From left to right: Adelia Saunders, Rebecca Dinerstein, Tom McAllister, Dan Cluchey, and Kaitlyn Greenidge.
    Photo courtesy of Malcolm Moore.


    As in the past, the authors were introduced to the audience by local community members. Here’s what the critics have said of New Voices 2017 books:

    Kaitlyn Greenidge, We Love You, Charlie Freeman (introduced by Dr. Anne d’Avenas): 
    “This visceral feat of storytelling heralds Kaitlyn Greenidge as an extraordinary new voice in American literature.” 
    - Tea Obreht, author of The Tiger’s Wife

    Dan Cluchey, The Life of the World to Come (introduced by Bill Dakin):  
    “At once obsessively readable, philosophically probing, and verbally acrobatic, The Life of the World to Come announces Dan Cluchey as a fresh new voice in literature.” 
    - BookBrowse

    Adelia Saunders, Indelible  (introduced by Diana Lawrence): 
    "A great novel of serendipities, coincidences, and connections, both missed and made.  At times dark, even disturbing, and at other times tender and sweet, it’s a beautiful and engrossing story of intertwined lives."  
     -  Anton Bogomazov

    Rebecca Dinerstein, The Sunlit Night (introduced by Bill Reed):  
    “Lyrical as a poem, psychologically rich as a thriller, funny, dark, warm, and as knowing of place as any travel book or memoir, Sunlit Night marks the appearance of a brave talent.  
     - Jonathan Safran Foer

    Tom McAllister, The Young Widower’s Handbook  (introduced by Ed Wilkins):  
    “Funny, sad, and smart … Part wacky road novel, part romantic comedy, McAlister’s debut flies along yet reaches deep.” 
     - Stewart O’Nan, author of West of Sunset - and Misty Valley Books New Voice 1995.


    Above left: Skiing at Grafton Pond. 
    Above right: Phoenix's general manager Colleen Shipman and co-owner Mike DeSanto.
    Photos courtesy of Malcolm Moore.


    In addition to the readings at the Stone Church, the public was invited to cross-country ski or snowshoe with the authors at Grafton Ponds on Saturday morning, meet the authors at a reception at the church after the readings and then have drinks and/or dinner with the authors at the Fullerton Inn, on the Green next door to Phoenix Books Misty Valley.

    "Over the past two years I have done scores of readings and appearances,” writes former New Voice Bruce Bauman (And the Word Was), “The Misty Valley Books New Voices weekend was as rewarding and as well organized as the LA Times Festival of Books or the Miami Book Fair. Those are major productions, with a cast of thousands, and are very much needed and appreciated by all authors and book lovers. But New Voices is exactly what the world of literary fiction and nonfiction is about; and we need more like it.”

    New Voices is a program which has attracted national attention, and a number of New Voices – including Dennis Lehane, Colum McCann, Arthur Golden, Gregory Maguire, Jennifer Egan, Alex Berenson, Heidi Durrow and Dr. Eben Alexander – have gone on to considerable fame. Over the years, New Voices has attracted thousands of loyal readers to hear well over 100 new authors read and discuss their work.

    Right: Kaitlyn Greenidge reading at the First Universalist Church in Chester's Stone Village. Photo courtesy of Malcolm Moore.




    Posted 02/13/2017
  • The owners of Phoenix Books, a Vermont-owned bookstore with locations in Essex, Burlington, Rutland and Chester, have purchased Woodstock's Yankee Bookshop. Michael DeSanto and Renee Reiner met with Susan Morgan - who bought the shop in 2001 - for the closing on February 1st. Yankee Bookshop first opened in November of 1935, making it Vermont's oldest continuously operated independent bookshop.

    "After 15 years of 24/7 ownership doing everything, including cleaning the toilet, I realized the bookshop needs fresh eyes and fresh passion to continue to be one of Woodstock's keystone businesses," says Morgan. "I’m tuckered out! Yankee Bookshop deserves owners who are media savvy. I want to see the Yankee Bookshop hit its 100 year mark and still be going strong. I know it can't happen with me as its owner, but when it happens I hope I'm here to see it!"

    While DeSanto says that a few alterations may be made as the new owners bring their own taste, style and interest to the selection of offerings and to the floor plan, they won't be making any drastic changes to the venerable bookshop. "We've signed a lease for the next 3-6 years," says DeSanto, "so we are not moving. We're keeping the name, Yankee Bookshop. Susan Morgan has passed on a thriving and successful bookstore; our job is to keep that going!" To aid in the transition in ownership, Morgan will stay on in the store for a few months and will be available for consultation after that.

    For day to day operations and on-site owner-management, DeSanto and Reiner have teamed up with their assistant manager, Kari Meutsch, and her fiance, Kristian Preylowski. Meutsch has worked for Phoenix Books for five years and has always wanted to own her own bookstore. "From the beginning, Mike and I were impressed by Kari's ability to make customers feel welcome, her determination to make sure she always did the best job possible, her intelligence and creativity in facing the challenges of a retail business, and her genuine love for books and bookselling," said Renee Reiner. Mike DeSanto adds, "Renee and I - and the team at Phoenix Books - are excited to support our local owner-managers by providing both the stability of being associated with an established group of businesses and access our management group. As excited as we are that Kari and Kristian will be in Woodstock as our business partners, we will all miss her pretty desperately in Burlington and Essex.”

    DeSanto and Reiner were the owners of The Book Rack and Children's pages, first located in Winooski, Vermont, and then Essex from 1995 to 2003, when they sold that business. The appeal of bookselling was too strong to resist, and the couple founded Phoenix Books in Essex, Vermont in 2007 and, in 2012, opened a second location in Burlington using a Community Supported Enterprise model. Following a recruitment effort by the greater Rutland community, including Green Mountain Power, the City of Rutland and the Downtown Rutland Partnership, and the addition of local partners Tricia and Tom Huebner to provide local leadership, DeSanto and Reiner opened Phoenix Books Rutland in September of 2015. In May of 2016, DeSanto and Reiner acquired Misty Valley Books, now Phoenix Books Misty Valley, in Chester Vermont. "We believe that local, bricks-and-mortar bookshops offer something very important to a community - a physical place to go to discover and exchange ideas, to have conversations with neighbors, and to gather as community members," says DeSanto.  "It is part of our mission at Phoenix Books to ensure that local bookshops continue to be a vital part of Vermont's communities - and to engage with and serve the communities where we do business."

    Kristian Preylowski and Kari Meutsch met seven years ago while working in a bookstore, and between the two of them have close to twenty years of experience in bookselling. "We’ve both spent our lives working in the service industry, and understand what it means to serve our community,"says Meutsch. "Woodstock has a beauty and vibe that we find inspiring. We are excited to continue the work of an existing business that has so much history within the community and the state; both of us have a deep respect for independent businesses that have survived and thrived over time, and we cannot wait to do our part to keep the tradition of the Yankee Bookshop alive for years to come."

    (Photo by Gareth Henderson - The Vermont Standard.  From left to right, Kristian Preylowski, Kari Meutsch, Susan Morgan, Mike DeSanto, Renee, Reiner.)

    In the news:
    VTDigger: Phoenix Books Acquires Fifth Location in Vermont
    Shelf Awareness: Vermont's Phoenix Books Buys Yankee Bookshop in Woodstock
    Vermont Business Magazine: Phoenix Books buys Yankee Bookshop
    Chester Telegraph: Phoenix Books, owner of Chester shop, buys Woodstock store
    Bookselling This Week: Vermont's Yankee Bookshop Joins Phoenix Books Family
    Mountain Times: Phoenix Books buys Vermont's oldest bookstore
    Valley News: Turning the Page


    Posted 02/10/2017
  • Phoenix Books is taking a stand against hunger this holiday season by matching customer donations - up to $5,000 -  to the Vermont Foodbank between Thanksgiving and December 24th. The company - which has locations in Essex, Burlington, Rutland and Chester - has embarked on a year-long partnership with the Vermont Foodbank to raise at least $25,000 through a series of fundraisers. This matching program for December is the first of multiple events planned in partnership with Phoenix Books and Vermont Foodbank. The match is dollar for dollar so the more the community donates through Phoenix Books the more money raised for the Vermont Foodbank.

    "Food is personal for me," says Phoenix Books co-owner Mike DeSanto.  As a small boy my family watched what we ate, and it wasn't about calories and fats but whether there was enough to go around. Counting out portions has always remained with me. A couple of years ago, I saw something that spoke about how hard it is for a child who is 'food insecure' to learn. And I recalled in that moment feeling hungry as a child." After meeting with Nicole Whalen and Cassie Lindsay of the Vermont Foodbank, DeSanto says, "I realized that I could commit my business and the stores in four communities to doing something significant to help with feeding our neighbors in Vermont."

    “We are thrilled to partner with Phoenix Books and their customers this holiday season,” said John Sayles, Vermont Foodbank CEO. “Too many kids and families in our communities are struggling with hunger—we owe them better. We want everyone in our communities to reach their full potential, and that starts with a healthy meal.”

    Customers at all four locations are invited to donate to the Vermont Foodbank by purchasing ornamental coupons off of a giving tree located near or at the cash registers of the stores. The coupons are simply added to the purchase or can be handled as a separate sale and contribution. The coupons come in denominations $1, $3, $5, $10 or $25, but any amount can be donated thru the registers. "Giving is simple and easy. All you need to say is I'd like to donate to the Foodbank and our staff will take care of everything from there." said DeSanto.

    In the news:
    Bookselling This Week
    Business People Vermont
    Rutland Reader
    Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility
    Vermont Foodbank's website
    Vermont Journal
    Williston Observer


    Posted 12/08/2016
  • Two thousand pocket-sized copies of the U.S. Constitution recently arrived at Phoenix Books—but these books aren't for sale:  Instead, Phoenix is giving copies of the Constitution away free to community members.

    "Phoenix Books is in the business of disseminating ideas to our customers," says co-owner Mike DeSanto. "There are no greater ideas than those contained within the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence. People bandy these ideas back and forth, often without having read those documents. We think it's important to cast a ballot based on which candidates are most likely to bring the ideas embodied within those documents to their new administration. So, we're providing an opportunity to consider and make thoughtful choices in this election."

    The edition being distributed is The U.S. Constitution & Fascinating Facts About It, annotated by Terry L. Jordan and published by Oak Hill Publishing. The text includes the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence, as well as supplemental information on the men who wrote the Constitution, how it was created, and how the Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution since its creation.

    All four Phoenix Books locations are offering one copy of the Constitution per customer while supplies last. Each customer must be present to take a book, and quantities are limited. These copies are free, and no purchase is necessary.

    In the News:
    Shelf Awareness:  Cool Idea of the Day
    Bookselling This Week: Around Indies
    Chester Telegraph


    Posted 10/16/2016
  • There is a brand new van parked in front of Phoenix Books Essex, and it is all decked out in colorful decals identifying it as the property of Phoenix Books. Why, one wonders, after opening a brand new store in Rutland in September of 2015 and acquiring Phoenix Books Misty Valley in Chester in May of 2016, did owner Mike DeSanto decide to buy a Ford Transit Connect in August?

    "Because there is an untapped market for increased sales to off-site customers and we need a vehicle to get the books to those customers - and those customers need to know who is bringing them their books!" says DeSanto.

    The staff at Phoenix Books feels there is potential to compete in school book fairs, business to business relationships, off-site author events, supporting authors at their speaking engagements and creating mobile bookstores for large community events. The van will allow Phoenix to do this in the market areas served by all four locations - Chittenden County and the areas surrounding Rutland and Chester - and the store is exploring the possibility of a delivery service, too.

    Two years ago, Phoenix Books brought 80 cartons of books for sale at the Vermont Flower Show held at the Champlain Fairgrounds in Essex Junction, Vermont. The business also brought portable point-of-sales equipment, displays, portable bookcases and numerous booksellers to assist with the endeavor of three days. Booksellers had to cobble together a rag tag fleet of vehicles to move all that to the site and back again afterwards. Instead of private vehicles or renting a van, Phoenix now has a company-owned vehicle to handle all the transport issues.

    "We believe there are many other opportunities like the garden show. And we have some amazing staff right now, so this off-site program will allow folks a chance to expand their horizons and bring in new business for Phoenix Books in a way they may not have thought about before," said DeSanto.

    Phoenix Books can now offer to deliver an endlessly varied mobile book store experience to any customer or group interested in adding books into their program. The van also serves as a highly visible, eye-catching mobile billboard and advertisement, a not insignificant value added part of the equation.
    Posted 10/04/2016