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