RUTLAND — Phoenix Books Rutland, born through a community-supported pre-buy program and local investment, will celebrate its grand opening Sept. 28, followed two days later by an event with arguably Vermont’s most successful author, Chris Bohjalian.
“We’ve been blessed with incredible community support, so we wanted to do something big to mark the opening,” co-owner Michael DeSanto said. “Few Vermont authors are more successful than Chris. His appearance is kind of a ‘thank you’ to the community for the amazing reception we’ve received.”
Rutland resident Tricia Huebner, who will manage the store, and with her husband, Tom, is a co-owner, said her excitement has been building for weeks as space was renovated and inventory began to arrive.
“We’ve created a spectacular space that will be welcoming and warm, and will fill a need not just for books, but for discussion and debate and connecting with one another,” Huebner said. “This is a dream fulfilled for me personally, and for a lot of people in Rutland County.”
Phoenix Books plans a reception for pre-buyers and other key supporters on Sept. 27, with the official grand opening set for 10 a.m. Sept. 28 — though the owners hinted that the store might open a little sooner. “We are considering a soft opening, like restaurants often hold, to whet the appetite,” DeSanto said.
Because Bohjalian is expected to draw a big crowd, the reading and signing event will be held at the Green Mountain Power Energy Innovation Center – where the idea of Phoenix Books Rutland began last November. GMP, with support from the Downtown Rutland Partnership, Mayor Chris Louras, and a variety of local residents, organizations and businesses, recruited DeSanto to Rutland. GMP Vice President Steve Costello enlisted more than 50 people and businesses to pre-buy $1,000 worth of books each last fall to support the store.
“I thought he was kidding when we met for the first time and he said he already had $30,000 committed,” DeSanto said. “I’ve never seen a community rally like Rutland has rallied around us. It is humbling.”
Mayor Chris Louras said the Phoenix opening was symbolic of larger efforts to revitalize downtown and address broader issues in the region. “Every success we have had has come through collaboration,” Louras said. “Collaboration is bringing Phoenix to life, rejuvenating the downtown, and improving quality of life in Rutland.”
The Sept. 30 Bohjalian event will begin at 7 p.m. at the EIC, at 68-70 Merchants Row. Bohjalian will read from and answer questions about his new book, “Close your Eyes, Hold Hands,” a New York Times best seller. “‘Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands,’ Chris Bohjalian’s terrific new novel, could serve as a master class on how to write the thinking reader’s bestseller,” according to a Washington Post review.