By Geo Ong
While Sarah is busy raising money for the Urchin cause, i.e. going to work, Margaret and I drive from Bennington to Manchester Center, Vermont, to spend the day at the Northshire Bookstore.
The Northshire Bookstore, established in 1976, is one of the longest standing independent bookstores in the country. Given how relatively unpopulated Vermont as a whole is, I can’t help but wonder how, in the midst of the dreadful Amazon Age, an independent bookstore can stand here. But the Northshire doesn’t just stand – it thrives.
Compared to my beloved Diesel in Brentwood, CA, the Northshire has a lot of space. Labyrinthine not in construction but in organisational layout. Tables, displays, and spinner racks cover nearly every square foot. It might be the hardwood floors, the wooden shelves, the smell of books, the labyrinths, the charming haphazard clunkiness, or a combination of any or all of the above, but the Northshire reminds me of the London bookshoppe in which I worked on Gower Street. I swim in my reverie as I peruse the Used Books enclave.
I join Margaret, who has stationed herself in the spacious, comfortable seating/eating/working area. ‘I found a book I want.’
‘After ten minutes?’
You might ask yourself: Why would Geo buy a book at another bookstore when he could get any a book at his bookstore with his employee discount?
In addition to relying on the support of the public, independents must support one another. As a diehard advocate of the independent bookstore, I’d be a hypocrite to let price keep me from supporting an indie. Using price as a seduction is exactly what Amazon does to the general public, and I will not do that to myself or to the Northshire.
After another round of perusing, I rejoin Margaret at the table. ‘I found three more books that I want.’
After spending the afternoon at the Northshire, I no longer question the bookstore’s staying power within its community. It was bustling with life the entire time we were there, attracting a mix of out-of-towners like Margaret and I to supportive lovals who, judging by the snippets of conversation I overheard, come in frequently.
Perhaps population has nothing to do with it. If anything, it says more about the big cities, bombarded with chain businesses and a rushed mode of living that renders the activity of caring for a small business unimportant. Regardless, I do know this: Manchester is a town that loves its bookstore.
Excuse me now as I buy a copy of Lawrence Weschler’s Everything That Rises.
*This post was conveniently written on location at the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont.