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One village, three book stores in Shelburne Falls

  • Nancy Dole of Nancy L. Dole Books & Ephemera on State Street in Shelburne Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Nancy L. Dole Books & Ephemera on State Street in Shelburne Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Nancy Eisenstein, co-owner of Boswell’s Books in Shelburne Falls, holds Boswell the cat. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Dick Floyd and Shirley Mietlick-Floyd of Shelburne Falls Booksellers in Shelburne Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Shelburne Falls Booksellers in Shelburne Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Boswell’€™s Books on Bridge Street in Shelburne Falls. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 4/18/2019 6:35:08 PM
Modified: 4/18/2019 6:34:57 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS — Boston natives Nancy and Ken Eisenstein stopped in the village for lunch en route to North Adams a decade ago – and never left. 

“We were looking for a community – we wanted to be part of something,” Nancy Eisenstein said. 

Tired of Boston’s indistinguishable suburbs and anonymous neighbors, the Eisensteins were seeking a change of pace. While they had long planned to retire in Maine, the couple were charmed by the village’s quintessential beauty and friendly neighbors who smiled as they passed by one another the street.

A few years into their new life in Shelburne Falls, the Eisensteins were walking by Boswell’s Books at 10 Bridge St. when they noticed a for-sale sign in the window. Both avid readers, the couple had discussed owning a book store at some point, and the sign seemed meant to be.

So, they held off plans to retire and bought the shop, carrying on many of its traditions (including bringing in a fifth store cat) and introducing some of their own tastes and ideas, too. Boswell’s sells both new and second-hand fiction and non-fiction books, regularly updating its bestsellers. 

Part of the appeal of Shelburne Falls, Nancy Eisenstein said, is its book-to-person ratio: the village has 1,800 residents and three book shops. Aside from Boswell’s, the village is home to Shelburne Falls Booksellers at 1 Deerfield Ave. and Nancy L. Dole Books at 20 State St.

Nancy Dole has owned a book shop in town since the mid-1990s. Originally located in a second-floor walk-up on the Shelburne side, Dole moved to the other side of the river several years ago, where she sells second-hand books of many kinds – history, biography, fiction and more – as well as ephemera (including historic postcards and photographs) and assorted antiques. According to Dole, the emergence of digital books has not impacted her business too much, seeing as many historic books don’t appear online and some readers enjoy holding a physical book.

“When Kindles and those things came out, there was a big panic,” Dole said. “To me, it’s not even competition. A Kindle is a Kindle. It’s not a book. The attributes of a book are the quality of the paper, some of the images just inside in an older book … it’s almost like artwork in itself. I’ve never worried about the end of the book.”

Also, Dole says she has cultivated a strong network of regulars in her long tenure in town. 

“The longer you’re in business, the better it is, because you gain regulars,” Dole said. “And that’s very healthy.” 

While it would seem these stores would be competitors, the owners see it a different way. Dole expressed strong support for her counterparts, as each store is unique and covers a different corner of the market. All three shops often direct customers to the other two if they don’t carry a book the shopper is trying to find. They even market together, having recently created a pamphlet that includes all three stores. 

“We honestly help each other,” Dole said. “We know that book lovers … if you love something, it’s an obsession, and you can’t have too many of certain kinds of books, even if you probably have enough. The hunt is part of the fun.” 

Dick Floyd, who co-owns Shelburne Falls Booksellers with Michael Muilenberg, came up with the idea to market all three book shops on one pamphlet. While Floyd and Muilenberg live in South County, the two chose Shelburne Falls to open a shop seven years ago as they see the village as an ideal place to visit and browse around.

Their shop carries all kinds of second-hand books – local history, science and technology, biographies, literature, poetry, children’s books and more – as well as vintage prints, ephemera, art and antiques. 

“People like to browse, and the village is something that gives people an opportunity to slow down their life a little bit, and enjoy the day,” Floyd said. 

Shelburne Falls Booksellers was originally located across the street, but was forced to move after Hurricane Irene flooded the shop with three feet of water, ruining about 70 percent of its stock. However, the shop found a vacant space on Deerfield Street and reopened in its new location roughly a month after the storm hit. 

“The town has done a wonderful job of coming back,” Floyd said.

Reach Grace Bird at or 413-772-0261, ext. 280. Follow her on Twitter at @gracebird23.

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