Photo Gallery | TNorthshire Bookstore celebrating 40 years in business
MANCHESTER, VT. — The great American author Ernest Hemingway was known to say that no friend in life could ever approach the loyalty built between a book and its reader.
Four decades ago this week, something akin to this sentiment must have been on the minds of Barbara and Ed Morrow when they took the plunge to open a bookstore in the small hamlet of Manchester, Vt.
Today, in what has steadily grown to be a regional landmark, which also includes a sister location in nearby Saratoga Springs, N.Y., the Northshire Bookstore will mark its 40th anniversary with a series of events geared to show its appreciation for four decades of community loyalty.
The celebration will take place Friday through Sunday.
"Needless to say, we have evolved over 40 years," Barbara Morrow said. "Yes, we are bigger, we have more titles, more things, more space, more staff, but what hasn't changed is our mission and our vision. We started out listening to our customers and from there we grew."
While their son Chris runs the business today, Barbara said what gives everyone at the bookstore enormous satisfaction is "when people refer to the Northshire as the soul of the community."
Part of that reputation is tied to the store's evolution, noted former Manchester Journal editor Andrew McKeever, now the news director at GNAT-TV.
"The Northshire was always adapting," McKeever said. "Whether it was with their self-publishing, or to double down on great customer service, or incorporating a coffee and lunch hangout like the Spiral Press Cafe."
The bookstore, McKeever continued, "could have sat on its laurels as cool and nifty" and figured that was good enough. But over the years, "they've always been trying to raise the bar."
"But best of all, for me, were, and are, the author events," McKeever said.
A packed weekend
And the anniversary celebration is all about events.
On Friday at 7 p.m., a free comedy show with Vermont comedian Michael Kingsbury will take place in the Spiral Press Café, where beer and wine will also be available for purchase through The Perfect Wife Restaurant and Tavern.
Then, on Saturday and Sunday, customers visiting the store between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. will receive a scratch-off ticket for the chance at a 20 to 40 percent store discount.
Also on Saturday, local vendors will set up throughout the store sampling their products: Fortuna Sausage Company, Northshire Brewery, Maplebrook Farm Cheese, and Bobos Mountain Sugar.
From 1 to 3 p.m., author Wendy Walker will be signing her new psychological thriller "All is Not Forgotten." At 5 p.m. author and wine and cheese aficionado, Adam Centamore will talk about his book "Tasting Wine and Cheese," with plenty of each to sample.
Saturday's main event will be at 7 p.m. when best-selling author Richard Russo talks about his latest book "Everybody's Fool."
Sunday will be dedicated to one of the Northshire's key constituents: children. All day, kids will enjoy fun crafts, special giveaways, book-themed games, story times, and more. All families activities are free. Activities will include a story time, an appearance by the Cat in the Hat, and Kids' Book Trivia complete with prizes.
It's fitting that the 40th anniversary celebration is rife with such events, and perhaps no one knows them better than Mary Allen, who was the Northshire's events and marketing director from 2010 to 2015.
Now the press officer at Dorset Theatre Festival, Allen said the venerable bookstore hosted about 200 events annually. She recalled planning, along with counterpart Rachel Person, the book talk for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Northshire's Saratoga Springs store in 2014.
"I like to joke that the Hillary Clinton event earned us a PhD in event planning," Allen said. "[It] was an unprecedented challenge and involved an amazing array of moving parts. It's also the only event we got the chance to work with bomb-sniffing dogs, and actually say, 'wheels down!' all thanks to the Secret Service."
The Northshire's reach, from its humble beginnings, has not only extended to include national and international personalities, but also makes an important industry statement, according to Shay Totten, who worked his way through Bennington College in the 1980s as a sous-chef in Manchester, attending many Northshire events.
Today, as director of communication for Chelsea Green Publishing, Totten praised the bookstore's ethos, perhaps hearkening back to Hemingway's vision of loyalty.
"Northshire's incredible staff have been vocal about the need for socially responsible business practices, for community-centered investing, and have educated so many people about the benefits of spending our dollars with local businesses," Totten said.
These actions are not for self-interest, Totten explained, but stem from a belief that communities "work best when they are supported and nurtured by the people who live in them."
"The legacy of Northshire goes beyond just being an amazing bookstore and gathering place, but a living example of what an asset that a thriving, cultural institution can be to a community," he said.