After nearly 10 years as owners, Ken and Nancy Eisenstein will be selling Boswell’s Books in Shelburne Falls as of December 31. A beloved fixture in the community for almost 30 years, Boswell’s started off in Buckland in 1992 before settling into its current location on Bridge Street. Avid readers, the Eisensteins both come from a background of working with authors and publishers and were able to fulfill their lifelong fantasy of being bookstore owners when they became owners of the store in early 2012. Having just retired, they seized the opportunity to become retailers, and turned the little bookstore into a thriving business hosting events with local authors as well as nationally known names like Ralph Nader, Norton Juster and Robert Olen Butler. Offering toys, games and puzzles as well as a wide selection of new and used books, Boswell’s has become a destination for both tourists and locals, as well as feline fanciers eager to meet the eponymous cat, Boswell.
Ken and Nancy greatly appreciate the incredible support that Boswell’s has received from the community, especially during the pandemic. Bookstores, especially independent bookstores, were becoming an endangered species when they bought Boswell’s, and they doubt they would have survived, much less thrived, had the store been located anywhere else. In addition, having come to this venture with little retail experience, Boswell’s manager, Maria Uprichard, was an invaluable key to the store’s success.
When Ken and Nancy decided to retire from bookselling, they knew they wanted to sustain what they had worked to build. They wanted to make a seamless transition with someone who would understand the importance of Boswell’s to the community of Shelburne Falls; a book lover who would be an ethical and supportive employer, and one who could add enhancement and innovation to the business. They knew that Raymond Neal would be the right person.
Ken and Nancy have known Raymond since he started Roundabout Books in 2012. From the very beginning, they found Raymond to be a supportive and collegial friend in the bookselling business. He reached out to them with eagerness and openness to learn about bookstore events, and they attended his grand opening event. As Roundabout developed its outstanding collection, they became regular buyers of thousands of books from his store, especially the high-quality children’s books he offered.
When Raymond opened Roundabout Books, the store was principally a used book business. He operated the bookstore almost entirely himself, though with conspicuous help from his young son, Thomas, who was two years old at the time. Renting the former Kimball’s Laundry building in Greenfield, he set up library shelves from the former GCC library. The store then, and now, has a feeling of being in a library or archive, both because of the library shelves and because of Raymond’s palpable focus on the quality of the collection. Raymond was able to bring in thousands of books in bulk, a process which grew over the years to include purchasing from local non-profits as well as “upcycling” books from transfer stations. Year by year, Raymond found new ways to find and sell books, sometimes unusual, but always with a characteristic joyfulness.
In 2014, at what he describes as the most challenging time for the business, Raymond began selling books at Copley Square in Boston, a book fair program which expanded into book fairs at MIT, Amherst College, Hampshire College, and Williams College. This can-do attitude, willing always to go the extra mile, shows at Roundabout. In 2019, Raymond and his staff began a department of new books, and the store has now expanded to over 20,000 volumes, nearly all catalogued. Roundabout continues to be owned and led by Raymond, who is now restoring an historic factory – the former Diamond Electric Soap Company building at 85 Pierce Street in Greenfield. Ken and Nancy know Raymond’s level of commitment well, and are confident that Boswell’s will be in extremely capable hands.
The owners will change, but the important things will stay the same. Boswell’s Books will continue to offer a wide selection of bestsellers and gently used books. Maria will continue to manage the day to day business, and Boswell the cat will be there to greet patrons warmly. Boswell’s Books will continue to be a place where you can always count on friendly and welcoming customer service.