Technology for Readers and Writers
In conjunction with their focus on the community and environment, Northshire offers services that give their customers a unique experience right when they step into the door. Being the first general interest bookstore in the United States to have print-on-demand technology, Northshire adapts to the struggles of owning a bookstore in today’s book world where there is an increase in the use of digital readers and eBooks. In union with their loyal customer base, regularly updated blog, increase in non-book inventory, and the development of a publishing business with the Espresso Book Machine, Northshire is a bookstore that tries to fit the evolving needs of their customers.
The presence of the Espresso Book Machine at Northshire continues to bring new life to the bookselling business. “It has changed peoples' perception of us from an old-school bookstore to one that embraces the future. It has also made many authors happy that they could get into print,” Morrow states. “As publishers get on board with making content available for the EBM, it will change the dynamics of in-store sales too.”
Learn more about EBM technology by reading an Independent Publisherarticle: “From the Tech Desk: An Inside Look at the Print Book of the Future.”
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Expanding Commitment to Community and State
Looking at the storefront of Northshire Bookstore, you might think this cozy blue building is home to a large family with an extreme love for books. You wouldn’t be too far off; Northshire Bookstore hosts a team of loyal and knowledgeable book-lovers, most of whom who have worked at the store for over ten years. “Having this expertise and institutional memory makes managing the store easier and provides better service to our customers. Many customers have developed relationships with booksellers over the years so purchases are much more than transactions, they are conversations,” said one of the owners, Chris Morrow.
The store was opened in 1976 by Ed and Barbara Morrow and was originally located on Main Street in Manchester Center, Vermont. At that time, Chris Morrow was a nine-year-old bookstore owner in the making. Chris recalls his involvement with his parent’s business at a young age, “Once, when my parents were gone, my uncle took me out of school to change the register roll because I was the only one who knew how to do it,” Chris reminisced.
Chris’s return to Northshire didn’t happen until after undergrad, graduate school and time overseas training Peace Corps volunteers in Nepal. When Chris and his brother, Andy, took over Northshire they expanded the store, moving to the larger Colburn House, previously an inn, in December of 2003. Despite all the changes, Chris has tried to instill his parent’s objectives for the bookstore in his goals for the store. “Their vision of quality in everything we do was the main element to continue. My goals revolve around keeping the store viable for the twenty-first century, working on creating the best workplace possible and expanding our commitment to our community and state,” he explained.
In a world where environmental issues are being pushed to the forefront of the daily news, Northshire created a business that serves as a model for changes other stores can make to become “greener.” Chris’s degree in Environmental Science made him the perfect person for the job. “We have done major lighting retrofits, re-insulated the entire building and last year put a 16kW solar array on our roof,” Chris said of going green. Northshire’s concern for the environment and their community is fueled by their genuine interest and obligation to the natural; they aren’t just jumping on the “green” bandwagon.
It is no surprise then that Northshire Bookstore recently received the 2012 Governor’s Award for “Environmental Excellence.” In addition to this honor, Northshire is also a “Local First Vermont” and “Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility” member. Chris, the founding member of Local First Vermont, disclosed that he tries to keep the principles and goals of Local First in his mind at all times. The mission of “Local First Vermont” is to encourage community members to buy from locally owned, independent businesses in an effort to strengthen the economy and community.
“For us it revolves around trying to source as much of what we buy in the local area. Also, we are putting forth the local first mantra to our customers to help build society-wide awareness of the importance of using your dollars to build community,” Chris said.
Similarly, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibilitystresses the importance of education of environmental and economic issues, the power of businesses to bring change, and the need for workplaces of the highest standards. It is evident that each day the owners and employees of Northshire Bookstore embody the ideals of each of these organizations.
In an effort to spread Chris’ knowledge of environmental issues with the community members, Northshire holds Public Issues Forums where people can immerse themselves in issues as they talk with other community members about how they can solve their concerns locally in an effort to make a national impact in the future.
“We host a local expert who has put together a monthly sustainability series on many practical issues from green building to composting to solar hot water. We also sponsor a number of environmental events and try to get authors here who present these issues,” Chris explained. Whether Northshire allows its customers to leave the store with knowledge gained from the page of a book, an author, or another community member, this bookstore can inspire people of all ages to make changes once they step out back into the serene surrounding landscape of Manchester Center.
Northshire sets high standards for bookstores across the nation. With a focus on educating and creating strong relationships with the community, Northshire Bookstore makes an impact on Vermont that extends past their availability to sell their customers with the latest books. “I am currently looking at opening a second store. I've already lost all my hair, so why not?” Chris joked. At Northshire, customers can sip their favorite coffee at the Spiral Press Cafe, purchase a new thrilling mystery novel written by a local, and participate in a reading group or the Author Event Series all within the confines of one charming building. Northshire is an inspiration to other stores across the country, and we look forward to what they do next!
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Nicolette Amstutz is a writer for Independent Publisher. She is currently studying English and Communications at the University of Michigan. Please contact her with any comments, questions, or criticisms at namstutz (at) umich.edu.