Where Pigs Fly

Alison Morris - March 12, 2008

Gareth and I recently made a last-minute trip to Montpelier, Vermont to visit his mom (hi, Judith!). While we were there we managed to find a tiny pocket of time in which to zip (an hour’s drive) up to the town of Shelburne, with the sole purpose of paying a visit to The Flying Pig Bookstore, owned by my remarkable bookseller pals Elizabeth Bluemle and Josie Leavitt! I’ve known Elizabeth and Josie for years, but this was my first time paying a visit to their LOVELY store, which is now in its second incarnation, in a different town, in a larger space, with a much larger section of books for adults.

As I’d always expected, the Flying Pig is an absolute delight! It’s housed in what, some 200 years ago was the Olde Shelburne Inn, which means it’s got a beautiful historic storefront, and a lot of character inside. I confess that the deep snow, bitter cold temperature and lack of available time kept me from crossing the street to take a wider shot of the place, but here’s how it looks up close:

The minute I stepped into this store I was struck by its warmth and inviting feel. The windows draw in a fantastic amount of light, and the brightly colored walls make the place feel cheerful, even on a very wintry day. As you enter the store you face one of several cozy "nooks" that run along the left-hand side of the store and are immediately greeted by a custom-made flying pig table on which sits a large poster touting the store’s forthcoming author events. (It would be hard for any customer who sets foot in this store to claim that they never knew so-and-so was coming!)

Of course, while the pig table is greeting you, it’s very easy for the booksellers at the Flying Pig to greet you as well. If look to turn to your right from this point, you can see the point of sale counter, and anyone there can see you and say hello. This is ideal from a customer service perspective, and a great theft deterrent too.

Unfortunately Elizabeth couldn’t be at the store the morning I was there, but Josie greeted me the minute I walked in the door and gave me an EXPERT tour. The gist of which follows!

To your left as you face the pig table is a display of face-out picture books, then (as you move to the left) a lot of toddler-friendly titles.

In the back right corner of the pig table nook is the Folk & Fairy Tales section, which is chock full of titles. 

And on your right are the hardcover picture books. Look at all those spines!

And that’s not all of the hardcover picture books. This section continues on the back of the bookcases above and is followed by the paperback picture book section, which form the left wall of the next delightful little nook (see below). The back wall  is comprised of Classics and Poetry, and that’s the adult mystery section on your right. This might seem like an odd fit, but there are books for grown-ups behind you as you stand at this point, so it doesn’t seem quite so odd when you’re there!

Now on to the next nook, which is home to a HUGE Middle Grade section and two comfy seating cubes:

And now for the last nook, which is right in front of the register and home to gift suggestions and sideline items:

You’ve now traveled the full length of the store’s "nook side" and arrived at the point of sale counter! And, OH that counter! What with the dropped ceiling, the pendant lamps, and its perfect periwinkle surface, I experienced SUCH counter envy in this store! That’s Josie in the black shirt standing right in front of it, talking to me (which accounts for the slightly funny expression on her face — sorry, Josie!).

It’s the little design details of this store that really jumped out at me and make all the difference, I think when you’re making a store look clean and crisp and unified. Here’s one example: the beautiful periwinkle surface of the point of sale counter is carried through all the section signs in the store. See? Here’s the surface of the counter:

And here’s a section sign:

My other favorite design detail in this place? The floor mats! Did you notice the one at Josie’s feet in the counter photo above? It’s emblazoned with the Flying Pig logo, in roughly the same blue as the paint on the store’s walls. Notice how those floor mats carry their store’s logo the entire way through the store as you turn and look away from the counter toward the front entrance (below):

To the left of the bookcases you see in the photo above is a long aisle of books for "grown-ups." (Just to reorient you, the entrance to the store is in the back left-hand corner of the shot you see below.)

Now do an about-face: What you’re looking at is the rear corner of the store, to the right of the point of sale counter. Straight ahead of you are the books for teens and young adults, plus the fantasy section, on your left.

Off to the right is another nook (the non-fiction nook):

Also on the right is a spinner rack that is CHOCK FULL o’ Leveled Readers and Chapter Books:

I was really amazed by how much this spinner racks can hold, actually, and the clever ways that Josie and Elizabeth have created more space by including them. There are two in the teen and YA section, which include such subsections as Teen Series, Teen Chick Lit, Teen Romance, and "For Twilight Fans."

Behind those spinners, near the very back corner is what was once a pipe or support beam (I can’t remember which Josie said was the case), but I love that it’s now been tranformed into usable selling space thanks to the miracle of slat wall:

Do another about-face. Look toward the front of the store, past Josie who’s shelving books on your right. Hopefully this will give you some sense of the distance here from fore to aft. (Remember the entrance is in that back left corner, a little ways behind the chair at the end of the adults’ aisle.)

You’ve now seen pretty much the entire sales floor of the Flying Pig. Now on to the store’s events space, upstairs! I stupidly took no photos that show you what the trip is like (short and lovely), but the route goes like this: you walk out the store’s front entrance, through a door on your left, up the stairs, and through another door into THIS! This amazing, airy, bright events space! Oh the events space envy!

Those are some HIGH, HIGH ceilings, my friends. And look at the light pouring in through those windows!

The entrance to the events space is opposite the wall with those high windows, through the door you see in the photo below. In that photo you can also see the spiral staircase to to your left (as you exit) and the "loft" that overlooks the room you’re standing in. No, the store does not have authors present from that lofty height, but it does make the space seem that much cooler. And what a great space to stage, say… Romeo and Juliet? West Side Story? Evita?

Below is a shot of Gareth and Josie in the events space, just to give you some sense of how a grown-up looks in the place. It can be difficult for this store to lure authors all the way up to their corner of New England, but when you see this room and know that they can (and do!) pack about 150 people into it, that strikes me as reason enough to send lots of folks their way.

I spent a wonderful 45 minutes in the Flying Pig and wish I could have spent several hours more. Even if you’ve never met Josie and Elizabeth, I guarantee you that being in their store will make it easy for you to see why they’ve earned the adoration of their community in addition to the sincere admiration of booksellers like me.

8 thoughts on “Where Pigs Fly

  1. Carol Chittenden

    Thank you so much for the photo tour! I’ve always dreamt of seeing Flying Pig in person, and this is the next best thing. But wonderful as the store and its contents are, the energy and professional care Elizabeth and Josie bring to it is its greatest asset – and an asset too, to the rest of us out here pedaling and peddling as fast as we can. Carol, Eight Cousins & BookStream

  2. Marty and R.J.

    Alison, we enjoyed your photo tour even more because we were just at The Flying Pig Feb. 27 after a fresh snow of about 8 inches. Before heading out to the airport for our return to Portland, Oregon, we made a special trip to The Flying Pig taking advantage of the rented four-wheel drive vehicle. It’s a lovely store! And friendly, welcoming booksellers, too. Our photo nearly matches one of yours. http://www.SeedsOfCivilization.com/2008.htm

  3. Tanya Lee Stone

    What a wonderful tour! Josie and Elizabeth create a welcoming environment for readers and do a fantastic job with author events. Just this past Saturday we went to TWO jam-packed events. Phoebe Stone in the morning and Laura Numeroff in the afternoon!

  4. Spellbound

    I, too, have event space envy in a major way! We do, however, have the exact same periwinkle countertop, and we get lots of comments on it. It’s very festive! The Flying Pig is even bigger and more beautiful than I had imagined it. I hope I get to visit it in person some day. Thanks for the pictures and descriptions, Alison. Like a mini-vacation and also some great ideas. Three cheers for The Flying Pig! :o)

  5. Carrie Jones

    I was lucky enough to be a visiting author at the Flying Pig. I was there with a group of Class of 2k7 authors and honestly, it was one of the highlights of my author career. The love Elizabeth and Josie have for stories and for the kids who read them? It was amazing. Your photo essay/post really reflects the beauty and joy of the store and the people who run it. Thank you for spotlighting something that’s so wonderful.

  6. Elizabeth Bluemle

    Wow, Alison! What a lovely, lovely article and comments about the bookstore. Josie tried to post yesterday, but it doesn’t seem to have made it through the ether. She is as overwhelmed as I am at the time you took to document the store and write about it. (Of course, I look at the pictures and see all the things I mean to get around to some day. Ack!) Hey, and you authors, you! Thanks for the warm and wonderful words. We love having you at the bookstore! Really, my heart is just full of joy with all this kindness. I hope, Alison, that you’ll keep taking us on tours of our colleagues’ stores–starting with yours! It’s fun to visit everyone and see where they ‘live.’

  7. Elizabeth Bluemle

    P.S. Those spinners you mention actually hold *more* books than one side of an island case. Quite a few more, actually; they’re ingenious. Each side holds 5-6′ of shelf space, so in all, you get 24′ of shelf space in a very compact package. Skyline Designs did our fixtures when we opened in 1996, and they also added all the new ones in 2006 when we moved & expanded. It’s a credit to their craftsmanship that you can’t tell which fixtures are new and which are twelve years old!


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