After 35 years, Bennington Bookshop under new management

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BENNINGTON >> After 35 years, a local bookstore is under new management.

On March 2, Ellen and Rick Havlak completed the sale of the Bennington Bookshop, located at 467 Main St., to Linda Foulsham and Phil Lewis.

"My husband and I were living in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina and decided a few years ago we really wanted to open an independent bookstore," said Foulsham, who is married to Lewis. "So, we started looking for space in our community in North Carolina and we just couldn't find anything that was appropriate and that we thought would work for what our vision was for a bookshop."

They looked all over the country for a spot that would suit them and visited a few places before coming to Bennington and meeting with the Havlaks.

"We wanted a business we thought would be viable," said Foulsham, adding that the Bennington Bookshop has a long, proven track record.

According to the Better Bennington Corporation, the store first opened in 1928 and was run by the late Ron Sinclair, who sold it to Emely and Joe Parks, who in turn sold it to Joan and Jay Zwynenburg, who also own Jay's Art Shop and Frame Gallery at 115 South St. The Zwynenburg's had the business divided into three sections at one point, selling the bookshop name to the Havlaks, who ran it where Armstrong Jewelers is now until 1995.

"After spending time with Rick and Ellen and seeing what they've created here, we thought this, for sure, was a viable business," said Foulsham. "It just felt like this was a good place for us. The bookshop felt right, the town of Bennington felt right."

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Foulsham is a New England native, growing up outside of Boston and living in Maine and New Hampshire after graduating from law school. She was an employment attorney in higher education for many years, but has also worked in numerous bookstores where her passion lies. She even worked in bookstores in Australia, where her husband is from.

"A lot of people have spoken with us about how important the bookshop is to them, to their lives, to the community here, and we really looking to move to a place where we could be part of the community and actually add to that feeling of bringing folks together in a positive way," she said.

The pair have no plans to drastically alter what has been working for more than three decades, she said, but one big change will be that they plan to have more of an online presence for the bookshop. A website where people will be able to buy books is under construction, and a Facebook page is also going to be updated with news of events the shop will host.

Foulsham said the Havlaks did excellent work partnering with the Bennington Free Library to promote local authors, something she and Lewis plan to continue, as well as do more events to make the bookstore more of a gathering place.

She said some shelves have been moved around and some different books are being carried, but that's the extent of the changes.

The shop has four part-time employees.

"We are pleased to have been able to sell a bricks-and-mortar store in this digital age and we wish Linda and Phil the best as they continue as independent bookstore owners," the Havlaks said in a release. "We will miss the day-to-day interactions with our customers and the many visitors to the area, but we will continue to be active in the community that we have called home for the last 35 years."

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at 802-447-7567, Ext. 115.


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