Hamilton's Chapter One Book Store is making adjustments in ownership, suggestions for customer purchases and offering a variety of services.
Shawn Wathen, a partner in the bookstore with Mara Luther since 2010, is retiring. Luther has been involved with the bookstore for 16 years. She started working at the bookstore in 2004 and became co-owner in 2010.
Currently, Luther is co-owner with Marisa Neyenhuis and they are slowly looking for a third partner so that, “Shawn can fully retire,” Luther said.
Officially, the transition took place on Oct. 20, but Neyenhuis said she is comfortable with the bookstore as she worked there as an intern through Hamilton High School.
“I worked in high school and when I came home from college, then moved away for 19 years,” Neyenhuis said.
In August she moved to Hamilton in the middle of the pandemic and “bought a bookstore.”
“I have a seven-year-old and it’s really nice because now my parents get to be active grandparents,” Neyenhuis said. “Before they got four to six weeks a year hanging out with us in Vermont or we would come visit here but now they get to pick him up from school. It’s good for everybody.”
Neyenhuis said that when Luther joined forces with Wathen to own and run the bookstore she initially felt a loss.
“I thought, ‘oh, no, my bookstore is gone’ but it turns out that I get to buy into Chapter One and get to work with Mara,” she said. “It’s like I put in a bookmark so that when it was time to come home, there was the awesome bookstore I got to buy into.”
Neyenhuis said that Luther and Wathen have done an outstanding job in promoting the bookstore.
“They have done an amazing job working with libraries, school libraries and building great partnerships within the community, we have so much awesome community support,” she said. “You have to work hard to foster that in the age of Amazon and internet shopping. You have to make it really compelling to get customers to come into the bookstore. Shawn and Mara have done an amazing job of keeping this as a super-important part of the community.”
Neyenhuis said the COVID pandemic has impacted publishers and that shopping early is the best choice.
“People need to buy now for the holidays,” she said. “Publishers are so far behind; they are still printing books but when things go out of stock they are going to be gone through the new year.”
“It’s everything from distribution to actual printing presses themselves,” she said. “Because so many books were postponed from spring publishing dates it just really backed everything up. But we stocked up on the books we love and that we believe in. We’ve been asking customers if they know what they want, if they want something specific, to order from us now.”
Chapter One has new and used books of all kinds; book related sidelines; calendars; holiday books and good cheer.
Customers are always welcome to come in and browse.
Luther said the bookstore supports many community organizations, completing the circle of support.
“We use this time of year to feature other organizations in town that we donate to and support to remind our community that when they support their local businesses then their local businesses turn around and support the organizations,” she said. “That’s why this whole thing works and why keeping your money in the local community is so important.”
Luther said Hamilton Main Street businesses are often asked for donations from various groups.
“We love to give back to our community and we can only do that if we’re here,” she said.
Neyenhuis said the community must work together.
Small Business Saturday, a day between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, was started in 2010 to remind consumers to support small businesses in their community. It is for shopping favorite local businesses, independent stores, boutiques and salons.
Chapter One Book Store will be selling books in a variety of ways on Nov. 27.
“[For Small Business Saturday] we are not encouraging large groups of people to gather in one place at one time,” Luther said. “We are not doing a lot of in-store promotions for that weekend, but we are working on our website. It is creative problem-solving, we want to honor it and let people know they have local options.”
Luther said Chapter One Book Store is flexible.
“We have in store hours and are also constantly mailing books to people, we are doing curbside delivery, we are definitely working with people who aren’t visiting businesses who are requiring masks, or for those who don’t feel comfortable visiting public spaces,” Luther said. “We are definitely making it work for everybody’s situation.”
“We are trying to make it as easy for people to buy from the bookstore while still keeping ourselves and our customers safe and healthy,” Neyenhuis said.