Misty Valley bookstore reopens on limited basis

By Cynthia Prairie
©2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

After reconsideration, Phoenix Books Misty Valley has reopened its doors, at least until Christmas, Katie DeSanto,  a Phoenix employee and daughter of owner Mike DeSanto, told the Telegraph Tuesday morning.

Katie DeSanto at Phoenix Books Misty Valley on Tuesday. All photos by Shawn Cunningham.

The shop on Chester’s Green, which stayed shuttered for more than a week, reopened the afternoon of Monday, Nov. 19, when DeSanto arrived from the Essex store, prompted by what she said was the “outpouring of sadness (from the community) … it made us realize how important Misty Valley had been.”

She added that the “shock of the (employees’) walkout made us think we had to close the store. … But with more time … we understood we had to reopen the store.”

Phoenix closed the store, which has been a centerpiece of downtown Chester for more than 30 years, after negotiations with Andover resident Amanda Bourque to purchase the store broke down. Several days later, Bourque’s employment with Phoenix was terminated and the remaining staff told owner Mike DeSanto that they would not be opening the store on Wednesday, Nov. 8.

The final day for the store to remain open was then set for Sunday, Nov. 11. Between then and now, management at Phoenix, based in Essex Junction, had a change of heart.

After discussions with her father and his wife and Phoenix co-owner, Renee Reiner, Katie DeSanto volunteered to reopen the store and man it through Christmas.

Upon closing the Chester store, Phoenix Books faced public criticism from local shoppers and at least one former employee for bringing in a “corporate culture,” harboring a top-down approach to book buying and not getting to know the local people and the local market.

Then, in an open letter recently published on social media, Mike DeSanto apologized, writing, “I am sorry over the way I handled the closure last week. It was truly a shock to me when the existing staff left and we could not immediately provide staff from other stores. As a result of this, I closed the store and did not consider the effects on the town of Chester.”

DeSanto invites residents to come in for ‘constructive conversation.’

Phoenix Misty Valley will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and until 2 p.m.Thanksgiving eve, then open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday Nov. 23-25.  It will then be open four days a week, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. “Closer to Christmas, we might be extending hours,” Katie DeSanto added.

As for closing the shop for good after the first of the New Year, DeSanto said, “We still don’t know.” “There are people who are interested, but its hard to run a bookstore,” she added. In the meantime, she said, she’s looking for “constructive conversation” about the shop, and invites “anyone who wants to come in” for an honest conversation to do so.

So far, one local resident has offered to help restock the shelves. Richard Pease-Grant said he and his wife Marcia were downtown Monday when they noticed the shop open. “We had a nice conversation and I offered to give her a hand,” he said.

In an interview two weeks ago about the store closing, Marcia Pease-Grant had said that the Phoenix book selection was “all a commercial decision as opposed to a gut-level decision that the Reeds made because they know the community.” She also compared Misty Valley Books under Bill and Lynne Reed and the “old staff” as “sitting around a potbelly stove and talking … it was an extension of my sense of community.” Shopping became a “social event and not just a business transaction.”

While Phoenix  Books continues to look for a local buyer for the bookstore, and has received several inquiries, Katie DeSanto says, “It would be so satisfying to be a part of the community. I love the warmth and the honesty (that I have received) even if we don’t agree.”

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 30 years. She has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Barb Calhoun says:

    This is truly wonderful and I hope for everyone who cares sake something can be worked out.

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