Popular Vermont bookseller preparing Saratoga Springs branch
SARATOGA SPRINGS Northshire Bookstore is readying its new Broadway location for an early August opening.
Co-owner Chris Morrow and six other workers are building bookshelves this week as the electrical and heating systems are completed in The Washington, Bonacio Construction’s new building at 422 Broadway. He doesn’t have an exact opening date yet.
“Right now there’s still a lot to finish on the inside,” said Morrow, whose parents, Ed and Barbara Morrow, opened Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt., in 1976.
The Saratoga Springs store will be the Morrows’ second location, opening after years of lobbying by various communities.
“It’s a great opportunity for us, and we couldn’t be more excited,” Morrow said.
Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, had lobbied Northshire twice. Ten years ago, when he headed the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce, Shimkus helped the Glens Falls mayor launch a campaign to bring Northshire there.
They were unsuccessful, but last year Shimkus got another chance when Morrow contacted him as the company was scoping whether to open a store in Saratoga Springs. Local bookworms already know Northshire Bookstore, because they drive to Vermont to shop there, Shimkus said.
He expects the new store to have the same draw for people outside Saratoga Springs, who might drive as much as 45 minutes grab a bite to eat or shop in other stores while they’re in town.
“We’re getting more than a bookstore in this case. We’re getting a destination, too,” Shimkus said.
Northshire and Lyrical Ballad on Phila Street, which sells used and rare titles, will refer customers to each other’s stores since Northshire sells new books and they’re not direct competitors, said Jeff Clark, president of the Downtown Business Association.
Northshire will carry between 35,000 and 40,000 titles in its new store, including calendars, stationery and greeting cards, as well as audiobooks and some CDs, Morrow said.
The store is 9,000 square feet on two floors, with an elevator leading to the second-floor children’s room.
Morrow plans to be open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. in August but cut the hours in the fall.
As bookstores around the country — family-owned and corporate alike — shut their doors because of stiff competition from online retailers such as Amazon.com and the rising popularity of downloadable electronic books, Northshire thrives because it offers an experience customers won’t find elsewhere, Morrow said. The book selection, the ambiance and employees who steer customers toward new reads they’ll like make the store special, he said.
“They’re well-read and they know how to talk about books,” Morrow said of the booksellers.
Shimkus can attest to that. The first time he visited Northshire 10 years ago, an employee asked him to name some books he’d read recently and then suggested he try “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson. Shimkus opened the book when he got home and found the staffer’s recommendation was spot-on.
“I didn’t put it down until I was done reading it,” he recalled.
Northshire General Manager Nancy Scheemaker is busy training new staffers at the Manchester Center store. The company has hired more than a dozen people to staff the new store and may add a few more after opening, depending on how busy it is, Morrow said.
Northshire plans to host authors for talks in its event room, which can hold 100 people, Morrow said.
“That’s going to be a big part of our role here, to have authors come here all the time.”
The store also could hold larger events at the City Center, which it did June 20 with a talk by popular English author Neil Gaiman. The event packed 1,500 people into the City Center, and Gaiman signed books until after midnight.
As August approaches, exterior construction on The Washington continues, and the long-closed sidewalk in front of the building reopened over the weekend.
Northshire is one of three committed tenants. A franchise of Michigan-based Kilwins Chocolate has signed on as a long-term tenant. Kilwins also will run the cafe inside Northshire, offering soups, salads, baked goods, coffee and tea.
The gift shop Next Summer will move from its current spot at 516 Broadway. It also has a location in Bolton Landing.
Commercial space is still available on the second floor, according to Bonacio Construction’s website.