Thursday August 9, 2012

PUTNEY -- A volunteer group that wanted to start a community-run bookstore in Putney has decided that now is not the best time to move ahead with the business venture.

The Bookstore Committee, which has been working on the plan, on-and-off, for more than two years, is not going to seek investors and has told a local property owner that they are not interested in signing a lease on the storefront that would have been a potential site for the business.

The decision comes after the committee gathered a number of surveys around town to find out if there was support for a locally owned bookstore in Putney.

"The survey, sent to members of the larger bookstore committee and made available throughout the town, was the last piece of research we collected before we were ready to make a decision about whether or not to proceed," committee member Laura Heller said Wednesday. "The anticipated book purchases in the survey responses were not enough to convince us we could establish a bookstore that would be financially sustainable in the long run."

Heller said the survey responses cited the sputtering economy, and the popularity of Internet shopping sites such as Amazon.com, as the reasons why they did not feel that a small bookstore would succeed at this time.

The group also worked with the Vermont Small Business Development Center, which cautioned them against opening a small bookstore at this time.

Putney has seen two different bookstores close over the past four years.

Heartstone Books closed in April 2008.

Sarah Baker, who worked at Heartstone Books, opened Putney Books in Nov. 2008 with the help of local investors and assistance from the Preservation Trust of Vermont.

Putney Books closed in March 2010.

The committee has been working since then to bring another independent bookstore to Putney, and they were hoping to establish a collectively owned store.

Heller said before the committee was willing to go back to local investors the members wanted to make sure there was support and the most recent survey simply did not give the group faith that now was the best time to open the store.

"Members of our committee have been committed to the dream of a new bookstore for over two years and during that time have exhaustively researched the many aspects involved in creating one," Heller said. "We do not feel comfortable asking people to donate to the bookstore project when they have already given so much to support many other recent projects in Putney. This is a decision that we believe is a wise one for our community, for now."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 279. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.