The two Cs—competition and construction—are putting the squeeze on the 21-year-old Book Rack and Children's Pages in Winooski, Vt., which will move a few miles away to the Essex Outlet Fair mall next month. "What I've told my staff is we are trying to do something now before we're forced to do something in the future," owner Michael DeSanto told PW. "It isn't that things have gotten bad here; they just haven't gotten better."
With anticipated losses of 10% to 20% of his business when the city begins converting an intersection near the store into a rotary, DeSanto decided that now was the time to leave. Essex offers a more suburban setting with more families—and is farther from Borders, Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks and the other bookstores that dot the Burlington area.
"The bottom line for us," said DeSanto, "is we want to be in business for 10 more years. That's why we made this choice right now. I'm not interested in being a martyr bookstore." At the new location, the Book Rack's rent will decrease 10%, while the selling space will increase from 3,800 to 4,250 square feet. In addition, DeSanto anticipates what he refers to as "free" or "walk-up customers," which the store has trouble attracting at its current location.
As the second part of its name implies—Children's Pages—the Book Rack has never slighted its children's books. This spring it even published its first children's book under its Onion River Press imprint, a paperback of Jim Arnosky's Little Champ, about the legendary monster of Lake Champlain. "Jim's book was never published in paperback," explained DeSanto, who is considering publishing other children's books by local authors and/or with a Vermont setting.
According to store manager Colleen Vollaro, at the new store "we're going to put more of an emphasis on our children's section, and we're going to have an enclosed kids' area." The kids' section will jump from about one-third of the store's space in Winooski to equal footing with adult books. In Essex, the Book Rack will begin carrying educational games and toys.
DeSanto is hoping he won't need to close the Book Rack for more than a day or two in late July to accommodate the move. While the soft opening in Essex is slated for August 1, there will be an old-time grand opening complete with cotton candy and balloons on Labor Day weekend.