Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt., and its sister store in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., have been sold to Clark and Lu French of Manchester, Vt.
The original store in Manchester was opened 45 years ago by Barbara and Ed Morrow, who passed along ownership to their son Chris. The store was named PW Bookstore of the Year in 2006, and has also been named Best in New England by Yankee Magazine, and both stores have received the WNBA Pannell Award for Excellence in Children’s Bookselling. The flagship store is spread across more than 10,000 sq. feet and covers three floors. The Saratoga Springs store was opened in 2013, and covers 9,000 sq. feet and two floors. Each location offers some 30,000 titles and prior to the pandemic, the two stores hosted some 300 events a year.
In a letter to customers announcing the change, Chris Morrow wrote, "My parents started the original store in September of 1976. We lived in a dark apartment underneath the bookstore. I was 9. While the ladder leading to the trap door in the floor of the service desk area was very cool, I was not coaxed into bookselling full time until 1998. It was just for a couple of years to help my parents with an expansion… And here we are 23 years later.
"Perhaps it is fitting that I am at a loss for words, given how many words we have shepherded from soul to soul over the decades. What is bookselling without paradox, irony, humor, hope and fear, and a whole lotta hard work? The books that have lived in the stores are so varied and numerous, like a beach with each grain of sand a different color. But, as I sit here letting memories flow over me, it is the people I am most grateful for - the amazing colleagues who have worked at the bookstores, the inspirational authors who have convened with us in Manchester and Saratoga, the kindred souls at other bookstores and at publishing houses, and the generations of guests who have made all this possible for us. What a beautiful adventure! I am grateful to all of you - thank you!"
About a 90 minute drive from Manchester Center, in the town of Norwich, Vt., the Norwich Bookstore will have new owners this June, when Sam Kaas and Emma Nichols take over from co-founders Liza Bernard and Penny McConnel, who opened the store in 1994.
Both of the new owners are long-time booksellers. Kass started his career at Village Books in Bellingham, Wash., and is currently author events manager at Seattle’s Third Place Books. Nichols worked for WORD, in Jersey City, N.J., before moving to Seattle, where she has been a manager and buyer at the Elliott Bay Book Company. Kaas is currently a member of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association’s Board of Directors. Nichols serves on Binc’s finance committee, and is the co-host of the Drunk Booksellers podcast.
Oren Teicher, former CEO of the American Booksellers Association, is an investment partner and will advise the new owners.
“When Emma and I first visited the Upper Valley, it immediately felt like home,” Kaas said. “It’s a rare place that would have that effect, but the bookstore and the community that supports it are something special. We’re both thrilled and humbled to have the opportunity to be stewards of the Norwich Bookstore for many years to come.”