Downtown Manchester and the Millyard have undergone redevelopment over the past decade with the opening of new restaurants and shops. But now residents are getting an independent bookstore.
Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Liz Hitchcock, co-owner of The Bookery Manchester, which will open this spring. And she plans to make this bookstore more than another retail establishment downtown, but also a gathering place for the community.
What is the bookseller scene in Manchester? I know you have chains. You have Barnes & Noble, and so on near the mall and all that. But what is the downtown scene for bookstores? Is there one?
We used to have a used books seller by the name of Lee’s, and it’s since gone out of business. And it’s really just important to have this kind of asset in your community.
Well, I want to ask you about why that is. It’s not just a retail establishment. I know a lot of bookstores now the trend is they are trying to make it more of an environment, more of a community gathering place maybe than it might have been once before. How important is that aspect to your business?
It’s extremely important. Everyone can go on their phone and buy books from Amazon. The biggest problem people have these days is they go onto Amazon and they go, okay, now what do I buy? So if you’re able to walk into a store, feel a book, see a book and get really great curated books from local people, there’s a good chance you’ll find something that fits you a little bit better.
So it’s more of a tactile feel to it. You’ll be able to go in and touch the book, and sample it, or maybe get a recommendation from staff members and that kind of thing.
Exactly. It’s also the smell. I’ve had someone come to me and say, I can’t wait the smell the books. So it’s the entire experience from touch, to smell, to actually being able to hold them in your hands and feel the wright.
In an age where you do have an Amazon where you can download a book instantly. Or with your phone or your tablet you can have access to just about any media that you want, how do you plan to make that bookstore relevant to people on a mass market basis. I mean, I’m sure you’ve got certain clientele that will love it because it is a bookstore, but how do you do that on a bigger scale?
You offer them experience to go along with it. So you offer them the book club so that they can find out about new books. You offer them events, including book readings by local authors. You do the entire experience in order to really draw them in and hopefully they’ll see that it’s such an important part of their community that they decide to buy and stay there.
Speaking of community, what does a bookstore like this do for a downtown?
We’ve been a little weak on retail for many years, and often time our retail closes a little bit earlier. We’re hoping to stay open a little bit later so that people that don’t want to go to the traditional restaurant or bar have options.
When it comes to community engagement, community involvement. Can you give me a sense of how you see that developing? Who do you talk with? Who do you partner up with? How are things going to look say on a Friday evening at the bookstore?
So, we’ve had great response from all demographics, but what’s really cool is I spend a lot of time at the Institute of Art and the Currier, and with friends at Kelley Stelling Contemporary, and they’re all very excited to have another place for people to kind of congregate together that kind of suits that artistic group. It’s also extremely exciting because we do have visual arts, and we do have performing arts in downtown Manchester. But we don’t have any place for people that enjoy literature. So it’ll be that spot where someone who loves a book, who loves to curl up with a book can do that.