New ownership sought for White Square bookstore in Easthampton 

  • A sculpture rests on a shelf in the children's section at White Square Fine Books and Art in Easthampton, Friday, Nov. 19, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • White Square Books, at 86 Cottage St. in Easthampton, is being sold by Eileen Corbeil, the store’s owner. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Eileen Corbeil, right, who is the owner of White Square Books and Art in Easthampton, talks with Marcia Morrison, of Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Marcia Morrison, of Easthampton, scans the titles at White Square Fine Books and Art in Easthampton, Friday, Nov. 19, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Volumes rest on a shelf at White Square. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Sculptures, including one by Chaka Chikodzi, second from right, rest on a shelf at White Square Fine Books and Art in Easthampton, Friday, Nov. 19, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Eileen Corbeil, who is the owner of White Square Books in Easthampton, takes a call at the store, Friday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/18/2018 10:50:25 PM

EASTHAMPTON — There is a bittersweet feeling for Eileen Corbeil, owner of White Square Books, as the eighth anniversary approaches for the bookstore that has become her passion of love.

She is hoping to find the right match to take over the reins of the bookstore in the near future, a decision she did not arrive at lightly.

“There is literally blood, sweat and tears going into picking every book because every book has to earn its place,” Corbeil said. “It can always use improvement and fine tuning. It took a long time to get to where I’m happy with what’s here.”

The bookstore at 86 Cottage St. has something for everyone — illustrated books of Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickenson and Walt Whitman poetry for young readers, an Irish section full of James Joyce novels, Celtic encyclopedias and folktales, as well as shelves for every imaginable genre, including a portion dedicated to books about books.

The store is modeled after Shakespeare & Co., a famed bookstore in Paris founded by Sylvia Beach in 1919, that was frequented by writers of the Lost Generation, such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein.

White Square will celebrate Jolabokaflod, an Icelandic phrase meaning “the Christmas book flood,” on Dec. 15 as part of the anniversary party at the bookstore. Corbeil is hosting Patty Crane, famed for her translations of Tomas Tranströmer’s poetry, as well as two or three other poets.

Corbeil has welcomed artists and authors alike for events and workshops since White Square opened in December 2010 and she’s promoted the arts and culture community as enthusiastically as the literary one in Easthampton. Walking among the bookshelves and tables inside the store, one can find plenty of art for sale, including by local artists such as Cottage Street’s glassmaker Lynn Latimer.

The only remaining bookstore in the city has kept the literary scene illuminated as a beacon of light, but Corbeil said the time has come to find someone else to keep the flame alive.

“I’m looking for someone or some group that can bring something new,” Corbeil said. “This store deserves to have energy, enthusiasm and some imagination. If I’m not doing it justice, then it’s time for me to do something different and move on.”

“It’s going to be hard,” she added.

The bookstore, which is home to some 12,000 books, is a place where bibliophiles and casual readers can find a comfortable place to sit, read and relax. With various tables, chairs, and a black leather sofa, there are plenty of inviting places to get lost in a book.

White Square is a “sanctuary,” said Andrew Hebert, the current building owner.

Hebert said he would “love to have this stay a bookstore” and wanted to let potential future proprietors know that he is committed to keeping the rent at a reasonable fee to allow for the bookstore to remain.

“Easthampton is a pretty happening spot right now but it just seems like Easthampton without a bookstore is like a missing tooth — it leaves a big gap — and it would be really nice to keep it here,” Hebert said. “The culture that’s in place here now can certainly support that and, I think, one contributes to the other.”

Corbeil said that she would be willing to stay involved with the business for some time if a new owner were to be found.

“I’d like for them to succeed,” Corbeil said. “I will stay on as long as they need, and I would talk about stocking the inventory, how to decide what to get rid of because there is a lot of winnowing that goes on, who the various vendors are, where you can get greeting cards. There’s a lot to learn.”

A recent idea that Hebert said he is going to actively pursue is setting up a co-operative ownership of the bookstore to help continue White Square’s legacy.

“It wouldn’t take a lot of people or a lot of money for that to happen,” Hebert said. “Enough people with commitment and vision for that to happen, the whole business could be rethought and expanded upon.”

Luis Fieldman can be reached at


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