Our Hearts Are Breaking

Josie Leavitt - August 30, 2011

If you read any industry trade newsletters yesterday, you’ve heard all about the devastation in Vermont. As a Vermonter, I can tell you it’s one thing to read about it, it’s another to see it.
While the Flying Pig suffered no damage at all, our friends down in southern Vermont got absolutely pounded. My local news has done little but show the near total ruin of several towns, all of which have bookstores in them. These people are my colleagues and after seeing the photos I cannot imagine what they’re going through.
Downtown Brandon, home of Briggs Carriage Bookstore, is awash. Main Street has become a rushing river. The water was so bad, a pizza restaurant was moved 20 feet off its foundation. The building actually moved! I cannot believe the power of the water. Calls to the store were not answered (they’re closed on Mondays) so I don’t know how they’ve fared. Access to the town has been rerouted because part of the main road has washed away, so I can’t imagine there’s much business to be had even if they’ve escaped the flooding.
Lisa Sullivan, the owner of The Book Cellar in Brattleboro, which was destroyed in a fire this past April, suffered another huge loss as her second store, Bartleby’s Books in Wilmington, which was located literally in the eye of the flooding, has been all but totally destroyed.  According to her Facebook page, if the National Guard lets her staff in, she’s going to try to salvage the books on the top shelves. This is beyond my comprehension. To lose two stores to catastrophes in less than five months would be more than I could bear. I looked around my store today and thought how I would feel if it were all ruined. The shock, the anger and the sheer enormity of rebuilding would have me paralyzed.
Lisa vows to rebuild as soon as possible. I admire her spirit and wish her only clear skies and nothing but the best fourth quarter a bookstore ever had.

22 thoughts on “Our Hearts Are Breaking

  1. C Bailey Sims

    I can’t imagine what Lisa Sullivan is going through. We lost two huge trees and that was emotionally shaking. Maybe there is something the publishing community can do to help– collectively as authors, bookstores, and publishers. If you are an author, maybe you could send Lisa a signed book for her inventory (once there is a place to send it). If you are a bookstore owner, maybe you could contribute staff time to help her reorganize (like a barn raising, once Lisa is ready). Publishers could provide some measure of help, too. (Lots of ways to do that). We have had the waters of devastation. Now maybe we can show that love is stronger than loss.

  2. Kitti

    Please post again about Lisa Sullivan once she gets back to work? I think a lot of us would like to send her help.

  3. Fran Manushkin

    I love the idea of authors sending one of their books for Lisa to stock. If she agrees, could somebody post her address.I also posted a suggestion on my facebook page that we also make a vow to buy a book from her as soon as she’s back in business.


      Fran, this is a great idea. We should do all of our shopping with these stores.
      Will look into donations.
      Please let me know what you hear.Hope you are well–BABY is still one of my all-time favorite books!
      Elizabeth–thanks for leading the charge!

  4. Amy McCoy

    It’s hard to comprehend the toll this devastation has had on Vermonters. Sending copies of books to Lisa once she’s back up and running is a fabulous idea, and a small way to help. I’m in.

  5. Susan Sherman

    Anyone who says Irene was all “hype” needs to rethink: just look at poor Vermont and Northern NY state (yes, there is something above NYC!). We aren’t seeing many pictures from there because of poor cell service and the huge number of washed-out roads. For those of us on the edges of the storm, the preparations made it easy for police fire, ambulances, and emergency crews to move about, besides being a trial run of our emergency response organization. Heartfelt sympathy to all!

  6. Carol B. Chittenden

    Could we do any kind of a benefit at the Trade Show/Conference? We’re not the Rock Bottom Remainders, but we have some excellent stand-up comedians — not to drop a hint or anything. And of course any such effort should go to benefit any NEIBA member in harm’s way.

    1. Ellen R

      Hear, hear!! Maybe raffle of some sort at NEIBA? If each of us (or many of us) donated something toward a great big gift “basket”, we could sell raffle tickets at the show. Or maybe a silent auction for art and/or signed copies donated by booksellers, publishers, authors, and illustrators?

      1. Holly Ruck

        I LOVE this idea. NEIBA is such a great community and I feel confident that we could band together and use that time for a greater good. Let’s do it!

  7. Michael Wallace

    I just got off the phone with Amanda Menard at Bear Pond Books. Both Bear Pond and their sister store, Rivendell are okay. They had a few inches of water in the basement (Rivendell more) but they didn’t have stock in the basement, so both the books and the buildings themselves are okay. One bright spot, at least.

  8. Michael Wallace

    Bridgeside Books in Waterbury is okay, too. Close for a couple of days with loss of power, but they’re up and running today. I helped a friend clear out her devastated flower shop in Waterbury yesterday and downtown was a disaster, so this was a bullet dodged. The community spirit has been inspiring to see. Even the Ben & Jerry’s truck was out yesterday, refreshing the troops.
    Second hand news says that Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick suffered some minor flooding damage, but is up and running.

  9. Diane Reiter

    I had visited the Book Cellar on a business trip a week before the fire and was very impressed with the store. My heart aches for the double tragedy. I run a children’s book store in the Chicago suburbs and would be honored to send books to Lisa from my inventory to get up and running again. I hope she has the strength to start again.

  10. Elizabeth Bluemle

    Thanks so much, everyone, for your kind offers! At this point, everyone is still assessing damage and figuring out next steps. We’ll post again as soon as we know something substantive. Thanks again!

  11. Debra

    In the meantime, a fund has been set up to help the small businesses in town:
    FOR WILMINGTON SMALL BUSINESSES: WilmingtonVTFloodRelief.com Unfortunately, flood insurance and FEMA rarely give support to businesses that lose inventory or equipment. This relief fund, with coordination through the Deerfield Valley Rotary Club and Mount Snow Chamber of Commerce, has been set up to help offset any replacement costs or repair expenses. PayPal donations link at the website. They are working on getting 501c3 status and will update accordingly. All donations will be dispersed to local Wilmington businesses exclusively.

  12. Barbara

    Barbara at Briggs Carriage Bookstore reporting that our store suffered no damage, but our old location (at the actual historic Briggs Carriage Company building) did not fare so well. Flood waters from the Neshobe River flowed through town and destroyed the road in front of and around the building. I’ve heard that the Preservation Trust of Vermont is working to help save the structure (which survived the floods of 1927 and 1938). Our hearts and thoughts go out to all the businesses destroyed or damaged by Irene and her watery aftermath, especially to Lisa at Bartleby’s. We would be very willing to offer support, supplies, etc. in their rebuilding efforts. (Thanks for thinking of us/mentioning us in your blog.)


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