Northshire Bookstore

By RJ Newell

We are pleased to announce that Northshire Bookstore is the latest independent powerhouse to join the Los Angeles Review of Books Reckless Reader Program.

With locations in Manchester Center, VT and Saratoga Springs, NY, Northshire Bookstore thrives at the intersection of consistency and change. In an era of Amazon, struggling big box stores, and e-readers, Northshire attributes its success to three primary elements:

  1. Community. Ed and Barbara Morrow founded Northshire Bookstore in 1976, and along with their son Chris, who is now co-owner, they continue to emphasize the importance of maintaining a welcoming, uplifting environment for local and visiting readers. “My parents spent a lot of time and money on making that happen,” he says. “There have been plenty of obstacles along the way, but we are fortunate to live in a spot that has a lot of dedicated readers and visitors who appreciate what we’re trying to do.”
  2. The Selection. “We can, of course, get any book in print, but we believe in the joy of serendipity and have laid out the store to enhance this experience,” the staff notes on their website. One notable aspect that sets Northshire Bookstore apart is their commitment to children’s books. At both locations, a third of the store (an entire floor, actually) is dedicated to young readers. “I think people are surprised by this commitment to children’s books,” Morrow muses. “We get a lot of kids, parents, grandparents who visit.” While their children’s selection is a definite draw, the other two-thirds of the store offer thoughtfully curated fiction, history, regional books, cookbooks, gifts, and more.
  3. The Staff: “We have an expert team of booksellers who read a great deal, and go above and beyond to recommend quality books to our guests.” Northshire aims to make each visitor feel as if they’re consulting a trusted friend. In time, this might become more than a feeling; Northshire’s readers are not seen as “customers,” but as valued guests and friends of the store.

“I think the value of independent bookstores lies in their authenticity — meaning their immediate ties to the community and to their customers and readers,” says Morrow. Northshire aims to reflect its location, to “create environments that are welcoming and provide an experience of serendipity when you walk through them.”

Both locations are filled with natural light, custom wood shelves, and wood flooring. “I would say our atmosphere is uplifted and elegant without being stuffy,” Morrow says. Last year, he built a cozy reading loft in the Vermont location’s children’s section, which has become extremely popular for young readers.

Architecture buffs may especially appreciate the Vermont store, which is housed in an old Victorian Inn. The building, known as the Colburn House, was a bustling community inn for over a century before its conversion into a bookstore. “We’ve upgraded and added on to [Colburn House] so it has a vintage aesthetic.”

While the Manchester Center store reflects the history of its community, the Saratoga Springs site emulates the modernity of today’s New York. “The Saratoga store is in a newer, more modern building,” Morrow says. “It’s more ‘clean’ in terms of the lines.”

Northshire Bookstore hosts over 100 events per year in each location. These gatherings include author signings, children’s story time, book clubs, and regional community events. “Just last week, we had a tribute to Vermont writer Howard Frank Mosher and a lot of his friends came down. [We] showed one of the movies that was made from his book. [And] coming up, we just booked a meet and greet with our governor.”

What’s to come?

“I’m really pushing my commitment to creating a different, unique experience in the bookstores,” Morrow says. “By that I mean creating elements that generate surprise and/or wonder in people when they come into the store.”

In addition to the popular new reading loft for kids, Northshire Bookstore’s Vermont location is notable for their outdoor mural and statue display. “These are just some of the things that provoke appreciation, wonder, [and] questions from people. I’m looking to add different elements to each store that add to the unique experience.”

Interested in becoming a Reckless Reader? Become a member here!

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