The Village Bookstore in Pleasantville will be starting the next phase in its long history as a new owner looks to keep the beloved store thriving.
For 46 years, The Village Bookstore has seen many owners come and go and has operated at different locations throughout the village. But the popular Washington Avenue establishment became a prime destination for book lovers in 2003 when the husband-and-wife team of Roy Solomon and Yvonne vanCort made the place their own.
Now, 15 years after making a decision that changed their lives and helped revitalize the village, the couple has passed the torch to Pleasantville resident Jennifer Kohn, who this month took over ownership. While vanCort said she’ll miss the store, it was time to turn the page.
“I started feeling more and more like I wasn’t fully staying on top of everything, and the last thing I wanted to do was run this store into the ground,” she said. “We love this store, we love being in the community and we’re going to miss it enormously, but I think for the store and the community it’s way better to have a young, energetic, fresh face here.”
The dynamic duo had been living in the community for nearly 20 years before they made the decision to purchase the bookstore. While vanCort was gung-ho about taking ownership, Solomon was less enthused about spending every day in a retail environment. After a little convincing and some time spent around the store, Solomon quickly changed his mind and agreed to buy the shop.
“Much to my amazement I loved it. I just loved it,” Solomon said. “Bookstore people are very special.”
“I love bookstores,” vanCort added. “Bookstores are not like any other business. It really is a place where people come to learn. It’s not just buying and selling stuff, it’s a totally different transaction in nature.”
Solomon and vanCort took ownership of the neighborhood bookshop when it was in the corner space that is now occupied by Dunkin’ Donuts. With one year remaining on their lease, they moved to their current 10 Washington Ave. address and transformed their business into one of the most sought-after independent bookstores in the region. They have survived competition from Barnes & Noble and the rise of Amazon and electronic reading devices.
“Part of the reason this store survived was the number of people coming to the Jacob Burns Film Center who would plan a visit to the bookstore as part of their movie experience,” vanCort said. “During those really hard years that made the difference between survival and non-survival of this store.”
With the bookstore seeing continuous foot traffic every day, it was the busy holiday season last year that made the couple realize it was time to move on. The holidays are exhilarating but it does leave you rung out, Solomon said.
Fortunately for them, Kohn, an avid reader and book lover, had expressed interest in buying the store for more than two years. She has an extensive background in business, branding, communications and public relations and hopes to elevate The Village Bookstore’s presence, something Solomon and vanCort believe she can do.
“We’ve gotten the store to a place where it’s worth spreading the word and marketing to a much broader world, and we don’t have the knowledge, skills, energy and expertise,” vanCort said. “Jen has it and we’re very excited.”
Moving forward, Kohn said she wants to preserve the elements of the store that people love. With a goal of continuing to appeal to readers of all ages and genres, Kohn plans to increase social media presence by creating a website and being active on Facebook and Instagram.
She also wants to bring more programming to the store and work with booksellers to help readers discover new and exciting authors and works.
“Bookstores are all about community, discovery, happiness and joy and I think everything that we do will be under one of those buckets,” Kohn said. “People like being in a bookstore because it’s a fun and happy environment and we want to keep that. The store really is the town store and it’s our store collectively.”
While Solomon and vanCort are ready for life’s next chapter, the duo said they will miss their loyal customers and meeting new people every day. For now, they’ll be sticking around the bookstore for the next few months before they enjoy their retirement.
“I’m going to miss the daily contact with the wonderful people,” vanCort said. “This has been our social life for 15 years.”