Phoenix Books expands into Burlington with community-supported enterprise model
Phoenix Books, locally owned and independent, is coming to Burlington as a downtown bookstore dedicated to selling new books – with a unique economic model for doing so. Co-owners Mike DeSanto and Renee Reiner will use a Community Sustained Enterprise model similar to that used by food businesses in Hardwick, Vermont.
DeSanto and Reiner expect to open the new location in May 2012 at 191 Bank Street (known locally as “the old Climb High space”), within sight of the Church Street Marketplace and directly across from both City Market and the public parking garage, an ideal location for a retail bookstore, the first to open since Borders closed due to bankruptcy in 2011.
Both are seasoned booksellers with industry experience dating back to 1995 – first as owners of the Book Rack and Children’s Pages and now as owners of Phoenix Books, located in Essex, Vermont.
The new store – which will be twice of the size of Phoenix Books’ current location – will carry 25,000 volumes of new books, with an emphasis on local authors, an extensive children’s department with educational games and toys, as well as other merchandise, such as cards, stationery and gift items. Digital offerings include eBooks and website ordering (through IndieCommerce) with access to hundreds of thousands of titles.
Additionally, Phoenix Books Burlington, like its parent in Essex, will offer local author events, innovative children's activities, and community-generated programs of speakers and issue talks that are relevant to current events and to new books. The downtown location will be primarily responsible for supporting off-site events, such as the Burlington Book Festival.
Capitalizing on Burlington’s Core Strength
Burlington is well known for its support of locally owned businesses. The Indie City Index, a comprehensive study produced by Civic Economics and the American Booksellers Association (ABA) ranks Burlington as the 23rd best city in the United States for independent retailers out of 363 cities.
Reiner and DeSanto report that there has been a wave of independent bookstore expansion over the last year as independent entrepreneurs nationally seize on the opportunity created by Borders’ closure. The American Booksellers Association, the national trade association for independent booksellers, reports an 8% increase in membership since 2011, with 220 new member locations across the country.
In order to enhance the success of the downtown location, Phoenix Books will embrace a Community Sustained Enterprise model, similar to that used by Claire’s Restaurant in Hardwick. This model consists of a community of individuals who pledge to support a company by pre-buying a package of goods directly from the company. It is born out of the CSA (community supported agriculture) model.
“The door has opened for CSEs as a business model,” said Eli Moulton, attorney at Merritt & Merritt & Moulton, who advised Claire’s and Phoenix. “The new JOBS Act, recently passed by Congress, deregulates the securities laws to allow for this new model to thrive because it expands the range of people who may loan money or invest equity in a business they want to support.”
DeSanto and Reiner are asking those who are interested in seeing a vibrant, independent bookstore in Burlington to sign up for one of two levels of membership:
1. Pre-buy $1,000 worth of store credit to be used over time in the store.
2. Contribute $100, which will buy a 5-year book club membership offering a 10 percent discount on merchandise.
Both options will be good for purchases at both Phoenix Books locations and will allow members of the community to provide upfront capital that will help to ensure the long-term viability of the company.
“Phoenix Books Burlington will not only be a vibrant bookstore, but a community resource and an integral member of the business community,” DeSanto said. “As a local, bricks and mortar bookstore, it will also be a tax-collecting engine for the community. We expect to hire 15 to 20 employees over the next few months as we begin to receive new books and products.”
How does Phoenix view competition from online retailers?
“The online behemoths can never compete with a human, humane, customer-driven resource,” Reiner emphasized. “We all live in this community for good reason. Phoenix Books serves to enhance our humanity.”
To become a supporter of Phoenix Books, please contact Renee Reiner at 802-872-7111, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phoenix Books. 4.17.2012.