Phoenix Books eyes new Rutland store

The owners of Phoenix Books, an independent bookstore with locations in Essex Junction and Burlington, are looking to open a new store in downtown Rutland.

“After several months of study and discussion with a host of local leaders, we are excited to announce our intention to bring Phoenix Books Rutland to life,” co-owner Michael DeSanto said. “We need to settle on a location and raise capital, but I don’t see anything that would prevent us from becoming part of the renaissance of downtown Rutland. Our hope is to be open in Rutland by early summer.”

DeSanto said he and his wife and partner, Renee Reiner, were quietly considering a third Vermont location when Green Mountain Power Vice President Steve Costello contacted them. GMP, which also helped recruit Small Dog Electronics, NRG Residential Solar, SunCommon and groSolar to Rutland, has worked closely with the Downtown Rutland Partnership and other local leaders to recruit the bookseller.

“Phoenix Books would make a tremendous addition to downtown, and like Small Dog, could be a draw that benefits other businesses,” Costello said. “They have a unique business model, and already have dozens of connections to the community.”

Phoenix’s model, known as community-supported enterprise, is much like a farm CSA, in that friends and supporters pre-buy books or invest in the business to help fund startup costs. GMP has enlisted more than 50 local businesses and residents who have pledged to pre-buy $1,000 worth of books each.

“As we started that outreach, it quickly became clear that there was enormous demand for a local bookstore focused on new books, e-books and the like – a real hunger for an alternative to the Internet,” Costello said.

Mike Coppinger, executive director of the Downtown Rutland Partnership, said a study commissioned for the DRP shows a local bookstore is among the greatest retail needs in the city. “Our study shows strong, clear demand, and with all the recent additions to downtown Rutland, I am confident that an independent bookstore will be successful,” Coppinger said. “I think Phoenix will be a great fit.”

DeSanto, who said he was looking for more local residents interested in pre-buying books or becoming minority investors, has narrowed the search to a handful of properties on Center Street and Merchants Row.

“We have been astounded by the initial reaction from the community, and have fallen in love with downtown,” DeSanto said. “From the architecture to the outpouring of support, we have been astonished at what we’ve seen in Rutland – including a level of collaboration and commitment to the community that’s unrivaled in our experience. We can’t wait to be a part of that.”

To learn more about Phoenix Books, pre-buys and investment opportunities email DeSanto at michael@phoenixbooks.biz.