WOODSTOCK—Yankee Bookshop first opened in November 1935, making it Vermont’s oldest continuously operated independent bookshop. This month, the owners of Phoenix Books, a Vermont-owned bookstore with locations in Essex, Burlington, Rutland and Chester, purchased Woodstock’s Yankee Bookshop. Michael DeSanto and Renee Reiner met with Susan Morgan, who bought the shop in 2001, for the closing on Feb. 1.
“After 15 years of 24/7 ownership doing everything, including cleaning the toilet, I realized the bookshop needs fresh eyes and fresh passion to continue to be one of Woodstock’s keystone businesses,” said Morgan. “I’m tuckered out! Yankee Bookshop deserves owners who are media savvy. I want to see the Yankee Bookshop hit its 100-year mark and still be going strong. I know it can’t happen with me as its owner, but when it happens I hope I’m here to see it!”
While DeSanto said that a few alterations may be made as the new owners bring their own taste, style and interest to the selection of offerings and to the floor plan, they won’t be making any drastic changes to the venerable bookshop. “We’ve signed a lease for the next three to six years,” he said, “so we are not moving. We’re keeping the name, Yankee Bookshop. Susan Morgan has passed on a thriving and successful bookstore; our job is to keep that going!”
To aid in the transition in ownership, Morgan will stay on in the store for a few months and will be available for consultation after that.
For day to day operations and onsite owner management, DeSanto and Reiner have teamed up with their assistant manager, Kari Meutsch, and her fiance, Kristian Preylowski. Meutsch has worked for Phoenix Books for five years.
“From the beginning, Mike and I were impressed by Kari’s ability to make customers feel welcome, her determination to make sure she always did the best job possible, her intelligence and creativity in facing the challenges of a retail business, and her genuine love for books and bookselling,” said Reiner.
Mike DeSanto added, “Renee and I — and the team at Phoenix Books — are excited to support our local owner-managers by providing both the stability of being associated with an established group of businesses and access our management group. As excited as we are that Kari and Kristian will be in Woodstock as our business partners, we will all miss her pretty desperately in Burlington and Essex.”
DeSanto and Reiner founded Phoenix Books in Essex in 2007 and, in 2012, opened a second location in Burlington using a Community Supported Enterprise model. Following a recruitment effort by Green Mountain Power, the city of Rutland and the Downtown Rutland Partnership and the addition of local partners Tricia and Tom Huebner, DeSanto and Reiner opened Phoenix Books Rutland in September 2015. In May 2016, they acquired Misty Valley Books, now Phoenix Books Misty Valley, in Chester.
“We believe that local, bricks-and-mortar bookshops offer something very important to a community — a physical place to go to discover and exchange ideas, to have conversations with neighbors, and to gather as community members,” said DeSanto. “It is part of our mission at Phoenix Books to ensure that local bookshops continue to be a vital part of Vermont’s communities — and to engage with and serve the communities where we do business.”
Preylowski and Meutsch met seven years ago while working in a bookstore and have close to twenty years of experience in bookselling between them. “We’ve both spent our lives working in the service industry, and understand what it means to serve our community,” said Meutsch. “Woodstock has a beauty and vibe that we find inspiring. We are excited to continue the work of an existing business that has so much history within the community and the state; both of us have a deep respect for independent businesses that have survived and thrived over time, and we cannot wait to do our part to keep the tradition of the Yankee Bookshop alive for years to come.”
Photo by Gareth Henderson, Vermont Standard
Kristian Preylowski, Kari Meutsch, Susan Morgan, MikeDeSanto and Renee Reiner pose in front of the 82-year-old Yankee Bookshop in Woodstock.