Broadside Bookshop celebrates 40 years in Northampton with weekend events

Last modified: Thursday, October 02, 2014

NORTHAMPTON — Bruce MacMillan came to Northampton 40 years ago aiming to start a local bookstore for the community.

This weekend, the owners who took over Broadside Bookshop when MacMillan died in 2001 are throwing a party to celebrate the store’s survival through the ups and downs of an era not friendly to small, independent bookstores.

In an interview at the 247 Main Street bookshop Monday, Nancy Felton, one of its four owners, said she believes the Broadside has survived because the community appreciates the sense of camaraderie in a bricks-and-mortar store.

“It’s sometimes customers relating to each other,” Felton said. “It’s friends happening to run into each other here, it’s someone asking for a recommendation. People appreciate that connection you can make with other human beings you can’t make online.”

The store has planned a two-day celebration that will begin Friday morning with a live broadcast by Bill Newman of WHMP radio. He will broadcast his morning show from 9 to 10 a.m. from the store, interviewing local writers Cathi Hanauer, Barry Werth, Suzanne Strempek Shea and Andrea Ayvazian, whose books the store features. The store is known for showcasing the work of local writers.

Former Northampton mayors Mary Ford and Clare Higgins will join Mayor David J. Narkewicz to reflect on the past 40 years of the city.

Also to mark the anniversary, on Saturday area children’s book authors will read from the books they love at 10:30 a.m., there will be free Bart’s ice cream at 3 p.m. and a party at the store at 7 p.m.

The store, with its creaky floors and wooden bookshelves filled to capacity, has been standing at 247 Main St. for all of its four decades.

Felton said that it has not been easy to be an independent business, recalling the times Broadside was threatened by bigger bookstores and Amazon.

“The fact that we have been able to survive through the support of our community feels like it caused a celebration,” she said.

Felton, of Northampton, co-owns the store with Bill Clements of Northampton and Roxie Mack of Amherst. Lisa d’Errico, the widow of Bruce MacMillan, is also co-owner. Felton, Clements and Mack work with four other employees at the store.

Felton and Mack began working at the bookshop in 1980 and Clements began there in 1992. Over the past 40 years, there have been changes, including the store doubling in size in 1986.

Clements said he sees the celebration as an opportunity to thank people, including friends, writers, former workers and customers who have remained loyal over the years.

“We have an incredibly supportive community who support us even if it’s easier to go online or to a store where the books are on sale,” Clements said.

Another reason is to honor MacMillan himself, Felton said. She described him as “someone who really believed both in books and the value of literature, and in community and the importance in creating lively, engaged communities. He believed bookstores were a way of bringing those things together.”

When MacMillan opened the store in 1974, there were still many empty storefronts, although downtown Northampton was changing at the beginning of the Northampton renaissance.

Felton said MacMillan’s great love for books fueled his passion in running the shop. He appreciated “the way that books and literature can bring people together and increase our understanding of ourselves, each other and the world,” she added.


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