Phoenix Books signs lease for downtown Rutland store

The next chapter in Rutland’s story of revitalization will include an independent downtown bookstore, as Phoenix Books has signed a five-year lease on a portion of the former Lake Sunapee Bank building, owned by MKF Properties.

“I could not be more excited about our future in Rutland,” co-owner Michael DeSanto said. “I think we found the perfect space, directly across from the Wonderfeet Children’s Museum, in the heart of downtown. The store will be a warm, welcoming community space where people can relax, slow down and connect with books and each other. It will be much more than a bookstore.”

DeSanto and his wife and partner, Renee Reiner, decided to open the Rutland store following a recruitment effort by Green Mountain Power in collaboration with the City of Rutland, Downtown Rutland Partnership and more than 50 local residents and businesses, which each agreed to pre-buy $1,000 in books. Phoenix’s model, known as community-supported enterprise, is like a farm CSA, as supporters pre-buy books or invest in the business to help fund startup costs.

DeSanto said the 2,400-square-foot store would fill a third of the former bank, which owner Mark Foley is dividing to provide the perfect setting. “Mark Foley and GMP have been true partners in our effort,” DeSanto said. “The bank was our first choice from the start, but was bigger than we could have filled. Mark agreed to create a space to fit our needs and put us in the center of this wonderful downtown.”

“Like Project VISION, this has been all about collaboration, community and Rutland’s future,” GMP President and CEO Mary Powell said. “We are so excited to support and be part of all the amazing progress taking place in Rutland.”

“I loved the concept as soon as I heard about it,” GMP Vice President Steve Costello said of the pre-buy program. “Virtually everyone we spoke with agreed to participate. Everyone had their own reason, from supporting independent retail, to a love of books, to the desire to help foster Rutland’s ongoing rebirth.”

Mayor Chris Louras met with Costello and DeSanto the first day he visited Rutland last fall, a visit DeSanto called eye opening. “By the end of that first day, I was falling for Rutland,” DeSanto said. “People rolled out the welcome mat at every turn.”

With a lease in place, DeSanto said he would focus on designing the store’s interior, inventory, and looking for a local person to serve as manager. The store is expected to open by August. Phoenix also has stores in Burlington and Essex Junction.

“Rutland’s downtown, which is filled with architectural gems, wonderful local retailers, arts and cultural opportunities, and a bounty of dining options, will be a great home for Phoenix Books Rutland,” DeSanto said. “I can hardly wait to open.”

Foley said he was excited by DeSanto’s energy and optimism, which he called contagious. “Mike is in this business for the love of books and learning,” Foley said. “It’s a business, of course, but I think the secret to Phoenix Books’ success is tied directly to the fact that it is much more than that for Mike and Renee. Phoenix Books Rutland will be a great addition to downtown, and will help continue the years-long revitalization.”

Mike Coppinger, executive director of the Downtown Rutland Partnership, said Phoenix Books would fill a void downtown. “It ranks as the most pressing missing element, and Phoenix Books will help draw business to our existing restaurants, shops, and other services,” Coppinger said. “I am especially excited about how Phoenix Books will help complement our downtown kids’ museum."

To learn more about Phoenix Books, pre-buys and investment opportunities, contact DeSanto at 872-7111 or michael@phoenixbooks.biz.