“I’ve been setting up other people’s stores forever. Now it’s nice to do my own,” says Natacha Liuzzi, who opened Brown Dog Books & Gifts in Hinesburg, Vt., just before Thanksgiving. After working in children’s books at several Vermont independents—Flying Pig Bookstore, The Book Rack and Children’s Pages, Phoenix Books and Bear Pond Books—Liuzzi says that she’s enjoying buying adult books and gifts, not just children’s.
“I knew this was the worst possible time to start a business,” says Liuzzi, who named the store after her boyfriend’s chocolate Lab. “The morning of the closing my lawyer and financial advisor were in a conference call, with me playing good cop/bad cop. I said, ‘If I don’t do this right now, I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life.’ ”
In a little less than a month Liuzzi transformed the 2,000 sq. ft. former video store. She removed the fluorescent lights and installed full spectrum lighting, kept the slat wall and painted over white and gray with purple, green and a splash of fuchsia. Liuzzi also placed lots of orders to provide an eclectic mix of books and gifts to give Hinesburg residents an alternative to making the 27-mile drive to Montpelier or the 12-mile one to Burlington.
Natacha Liuzzi (r.) with her brother, Steven Desroches, who handled the printing for the Brown Dog sign above, bookmarks and other materials.
To keep video customers coming back to the store, Liuzzi dedicated a small section with 300 new releases. She also added cards and magazines, along with photographs, paintings, jewelry and other items by local artists, as well as Sole Mate Socks and Mountain Meadow Pottery. Currently her inventory is split roughly 50% books, 40% gifts and 10% cards and DVDs.
In addition Liuzzi has been reaching out to her book connections. Barbara Lehman, author/illustrator of The Red Book, designed the store’s logo. Books by local authors like Bill Schubart, author of The Lamoille Stories (White River Press), are displayed prominently in the front of the store, and she is in the midst of contacting him and other Vermont writers to do signings.
Now that the frenetic pace of Christmas is past, Liuzzi is planning to start an events program with music nights once a month and readings either at the store or with the nearby library. She’s also using the store’s down time to build the Brown Dog’s Web site.