MANCHESTER — The Northshire Bookstore, one of the region’s most iconic locally-owned businesses, has new leadership with local ties.
Former owner Clark French announced Tuesday that sisters Cathleen Ihasz, Nicole Ihasz and Ashley Ihasz-Austin have acquired a majority interest in the business and are its new managing members. The sisters, originally of Danby, took over management of the store’s retail locations in Manchester and Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and its website, northshire.com, as of Monday, French said.
“The Northshire Bookstore holds a special place in the hearts and minds of our loyal customers and in our local communities. Our daily mission is to protect the stability and vitality of our independent bookstores for the benefit of all,” Clark French said in an announcement made public Tuesday.
“With the recent passing of his partner and wife, Lu French, Clark French will be stepping back from his roles at the Northshire to focus on family,” the announcement said. “Clark will remain a stakeholder in the bookstore, however, and will continue to serve as a trusted advisor and supporter through this transition and onward. Newly appointed director of operations Scott Austin will join Cathleen, Nicole and Ashley in support of the talented and long-standing senior management team and dedicated staff.”
Lu French died on May 16 after a long fight with cancer. She and Clark French, who were married for 30 years, built a wide range of businesses reflecting their individual and shared interests, purchased the Northshire Bookstore with the intent of honoring its legacy as a beloved locally owned business and meeting place.
“Bookstores are places of solace joy and energy and enthusiasm, Clark French said in an interview Tuesday. “After several months thinking about this, I’m not the correct steward to convey that and take care of our customers and our staff in the proper way.
“The Ihasz famly, whom I’ve known for many years ... [is] going to step into our shoes and run the stores he same way they have been run. There’s no change in anything,” he said. “It’s really not a sale.”
The Ihasz family has been part of the Southern Vermont community for decades, and has a family home in Danby. Cathleen and Nicole attended Long Trail School, and Ashley attended Burr and Burton Academy.
“They love books and reading, have the fondest memories of the bookstore, and want to preserve the Northshire’s iconic legacy for future generations,” French said in the announcement. “The sisters are uniquely positioned to combine their personal experiences and their strong collective business capabilities to maintain and expand the offerings of these independent bookstores.”
The Northshire Bookstore was founded on Main Street by Edward and Barbara Morrow in 1976. The business grew and moved into the former Colburn House, where it expanded. Chris Morrow, their son, later joined the business and became a co-owner.
The store gained a reputation as a meeting place for locals as well as for its selection and customer service. It has hosted visits by authors including Jodi Picoult, Stephen King and John Grisham, among many others.