Store: Village Square Booksellers
Location: Bellows Falls, VT
Recommendation: The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro
Unlike the first two bookstores I visited, Village Square Booksellers isn’t exactly located in a picturesque small Vermont town. It’s on the main street of Bellows Falls which, while not a city, definitely has more of an industrial feel than pastoral Ludlow and Chester.
If my fourth grade Vermont history serves me, I think Bellows Falls is a former mill town and, like lots of former mill towns, has seen better days.
But for all its post-industrial feel, Bellows Falls has an active arts scene, a busy opera house (which always scores points in my book) and the Village Square Booksellers.
Much like the town, Village Square also has a different feel from the other bookstores on this trip. It’s located in a large space, one that looks like it could have been part of a big department store at one time, although I don’t know if that’s true or not.
I do know that the ceilings were high and the space was large.
The front of the store featured best sellers and staff picks on one side and toys on the other. (Village Square’s sign says “books and toy” but I was pleased to see more books inside than toys!)
The store has an extensive non-fiction section (My mother even found Billy Ray Cyrus’s new memoir to look at while I wandered around) and a sort of help yourself café area, which I didn’t explore.
I believe this is where they hold events like poetry open mics and an “American Girl Club.” In fact, we left shortly before Jessie Haas, a 2013 American Girl author, was about to speak to a whole gaggle of fans.
While we missed the rush of little girls and their dolls, there were several customers in the store including a family who was buying books for their three little boys. You have to love that they were buying books instead of toys guns or video games.
When it quieted down just a bit, I introduced myself to Pat, the owner of the store. I’d gotten my spiel down to a science by then and launched into the whole, “I’m visiting stores, etc, etc.”
While pleasant, I’m not sure Pat bought it until I asked for a recommendation. Then she lit up.
Her first recommendation was Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers. I’ve been wanting to read that particular book and was about to pick up off the table to buy, when Pat’s saw The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro and started telling me about it.
She said that it’s the story of a famous art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in nearby Boston. She liked the book because she learned a lot about the difference between art reproduction and forgery, along with the intrigue of the story.
I asked Pat if she had to choose just one, which she would pick. She then told me the story of The Language of Flowers and showed me the “flower dictionary” in the back.
While she thought both were educational, she ultimately settled on The Art Forger.
We chatted while I was purchasing the book and Pat has had an incredibly interesting life.
I’m sure I’ll forget many details, but she has lived in on a boat in the Caribbean (which was too hot for her, a concept I can’t quite comprehend) and on a barge in the Netherlands.
She worked for the Smithsonian where she cataloged the Steinbeck collection and for big IT companies like Apple and its counterparts.
Village Square is her second bookstore, which she bought when the previous owner was going out of business at the same time the Bellows Fall’s grocery store was closing. She thought it was too much of a hit to the town to lose both stores and basically bought Village Square and its entire inventory of mostly used books out of civic duty, although it’s clear she loves books.
In addition to the store and all its events, she travels to local schools reading to classrooms and serves on multiple non-profit boards.
At her urging, I knocked on the door of the opera house after leaving the bookstore and got a little private tour of the theater. Although I probably could have gotten the same reception because I work for a similar organization, I’m sure my mention of Pat opened that door more easily.
I left Bellows Falls thinking that the town is lucky to have a wonderful bookstore like Village Square and a bookseller like Pat, who is so invested in the community!