New owners of The Bookloft have deep Berkshire roots

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GREAT BARRINGTON — A book lover whose family has deep ties to the Berkshires has purchased one of South County's oldest independent bookstores from its retiring founder and owner.

Pamela Pescosolido, whose family has owned property in Mount Washington since 1910, will officially take ownership of The Bookloft in the Barrington Plaza on Tuesday from Eric and Ev Wilska.

The Wilskas founded the Bookloft, one of South County's oldest independent bookstores, 42 years ago this month. They plan to stay on for about a month to help Pescosolido with the transition to new ownership.

An open house to say goodbye to the Wilskas and welcome Pescosolido to the community will take place at the Bookloft on May 28.

"It was a good run," said Eric Wilska, who also owns the Shaker Mill property in West Stockbridge, where he operates a rare book store. "Forty-two years [ago May 8]; we opened on Mother's Day. That's long for a bookstore to remain profitable. I'm very proud of it.

"I plan to keep my hand in books," he said, "just not the new book world."

The Wilskas had put the Bookloft on the market in December, and had hired Paz & Associates, a Florida-based bookstore training group, to help with the sale.

On Thursday, Wilska said he received 21 total offers for the Bookloft, but only about five "were still swinging" by the end of the vetting process.

"Some people said 'I wish I were 20 years younger,' or being in a shopping center didn't fit their romantic view of a bookstore," Wilska said.

Pescosolido, who holds a law degree from Vermont Law School and worked as a citrus farmer in California, plans to leave the Bookloft's store operations the way they are for now, and retain the store's eight staffers.

"At the moment, I have no plans to change anything," she said. "It seems to be working very well the way it's run now.

"I haven't been there yet, but as of now I'm keeping the staff there and most of the things the same."

"We liked what she wanted to do with the business," Wilska said. "She understands it's an institution. Her family has been shopping at the bookstore literally since 1974 when it opened. We appreciated that she was going to keep the staff. We have some real long-timers and that was important."

Pescosolido does planning to change the items in the Bookloft's gift area, where objects like fine stationary, greeting cards and writing journals are sold.

"I have different ideas on what works and what doesn't," she said. "I plan to switch out some things with things that I think will sell."

Pescosolido also plans to carry on the Bookloft's strong traditions of promoting community through love of reading and superior customer service.

"We will continue to offer a wide range of carefully curated books and other products reflecting love of reading and the arts," she said. "We hope to work as a partner to the community and provide a destination of imagination and discovery for all ages."

Pescosolido has never run a bookstore before. But she previously ran an art supply store, has sold books online, and operated a small bookselling business.

"This is going to sound silly, but it seems like the perfect job," said Pescosolido, when asked why she bought the Bookloft. "It's something I've been working toward in various ways my entire life. I love books."

Pescosolido's family owns Blueberry Hill Farm in Mount Washington, which is run each summer as an organic pick-your-own berries operation. Her father, Carl "Skip" Pescosolido, taught at the Berkshire School in Sheffield in the early 1960s before becoming an independent orange grower in Exeter, Calif. in the early 1970s.

Carl Pescosolido married the daughter of late attorney and Harvard Business School Professor Robert W. Austin, who purchased the 350-acre Blueberry Hill Farm in 1941, and planted the first blueberry bushes there after determining they were the only crop that could grow in the farm's highly acidic soil.

Born in 1908, Austin had vacationed in Mount Washington since childhood and inherited his family's summer place in that town before buying Blueberry Hill Farm when it came on the market. Austin moved to Mount Washington permanently in 1972. He died in 1986.

Born in Chicago, Pamela Pescosolido lived in the Berkshires for three years in the 1980s, and between 2011 and 2013 before attending law school. Currently staying in Mount Washington, Pescosolido has also spent many summers in the Berkshires.

"I have real ties to the Berkshires, not just tentative ties," she said. "I'm planning to move here full-time."

Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.


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