HINESBURG - Why would anyone open a new bookstore in Vermont during the worst economic downturn since the mid 1970s - maybe even the 1930s?
Well, if you love books and bookpeople, are an experienced professional bookbuyer and seller, and you believe books are an intellectual portal to a better place especially in gloomy times, then why not? Many great American business success stories can be traced to hard times. Risk is a part of successful businesses and a part of successful lives.
Despite penny-pinching customers avoiding other kinds of retailers, bookstores nationally have been doing better than many experts expected. Many independent booksellers reported stronger than expected Christmas gift sales - compare the price of a book to an H.D. television set or an iPod gift. (Besides, a T.V. or iPod doesn't offer much in the way of intellectual stimulation or emotional satisfaction like a gift or creative gifts.)
So, let's introduce businesswoman and bookseller Natacha Liuzzi, owner of Hinesburg's first bookshop - Brown Dog Books and Gifts.
Liuzzi learned the ins and outs of the book trade while employed at Vermont's most respected independent bookshops: Bear Pond Books, Book Rack, and the Flying Pig. She was a major bookbuyer for each bookseller. Now she's on her own and her new Hinesburg business venture, which opened in November, is starting to get noticed.
An independent, small town bookstore, Brown Dog occupies the former site of Showtime Video rental store in the same shopping plaza as Estes Hardware, located along Commerce Street and Route 116, just north of central Hinesburg.
Surprisingly, in addition to books and gifts, Brown Dog continues DVD video rentals. So, as Liuzzi remains true to the shop's mission there's always something more to surprise a customer. She sells not only local and international fiction and non-fiction book titles - and many children's books - but also greeting cards, art prints, magazines, and Vermont-made craft gifts.
"I've always wanted to do this," said Liuzzi. "If you live in Hinesburg you have to drive far and wide for books and such. There was nothing locally."
Liuzzi's passion for the book business is her secret ingredient. Because she knows books, she's in an ideal position to succeed in an industry that has been dominated by impersonal, giant monsters such as Barnes & Noble and Borders. Try finding a book by a local self-published author in Barnes and Noble. B&N is just too snobby for showcasing local, enterprising authors. Not so with Small Dog Books and Gifts. Owner Liuzzi features several self-published local authors in addition to mainstream ones. This bookstore deserves attention - there are real books here, yes, even in addition to those bestsellers.
Brown Dog's expert staff - Liuzzi, Gail Riggs and Emma Pouech - will help you find a book, video or leave you alone to wander on your own. Children will enjoy climbing aboard one of the color Adirondack chairs to explore a new book in the children's section while mom and dad flip through one of the many new books about President Obama.
As a bonus, Brown Dog features regular live music performances in the shop titled "Music Night." For example, Hinesburg musicians John Penoyar and Dan Silverman will perform Friday, Feb. 7, at 7 p.m. It's free to the public. You can enquire about upcoming performers at the Brown Dog counter.
In a world where faceless box stores and box-like bookstores dominate the world of retail, it's nice to know there's still a locally-owned small business in town that can meet your consumer needs. Buy local. Buy Brown Dog.
Brown Dog Books & Gifts is located at 22 Commerce St., Suite 3, in the Estes Hardware shopping center along Route 116 in Hinesburg. For more information call 482-5189 or visit the Web site www.browndogbooksandgifts.com.