Bookstore Opens in Bradenton, Florida's Village of the Arts

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Cutting the ribbon at The Village Bookshop's grand opening.

Author Ward Larsen autographing The Perfect Assassin.

The store's opening drew an enthusiastic response from community members.

The Village Bookshop in Bradenton, Florida, celebrated its grand opening on October 1 and 2. According to owner Doug Knowlton, the store's opening in a 1,350-square-foot space, once a private home, most recently an art gallery, was timed to correspond with the neighborhood's monthly Art Walk, a feature of Bradenton's Village of the Arts.

Village of the Arts, Knowlton told BTW, was a project started in 1999 by the Artists Guild of Manatee. The group of artists and artisans, with the full support of city officials and business leaders, rehabilitated older homes on two parallel blocks off Main Street and turned them into community galleries and art studios, now known as Village of the Arts. The district offers 40 houses with galleries and studios, all open to visitors as part of the monthly Art Walks, scheduled for the first Friday night and Saturday of each month.

Knowlton closed on the former gallery in May and transformed it into the Village Bookshop. The kitchen area was completely removed. "We brought in bookcases and created a fiction section out of the enclosed front porch," explained Knowlton. "The center areas of the rooms were left open for events. Fortunately, the previous owner had put in an extensive garden full of exotic plantings.

"We are definitely basing the store on a community center model," he explained. "We welcome people into the large community garden that conveniently contains the only by-pass to the next block, which houses more galleries and studios. My wife, Valorie, a nurse, has opened a 'healing cottage' in our back building where she treats people using alternative healing modalities."

The Village Bookshop is a general bookstore with areas of concentration in literature, art and photography, gardening, and alternative healing. Knowlton described the children's corner as small. "We direct people who want a complete children's collection to our friends Holly [Baracchini] and Heidi [Allwood] at nearby Little Bookworms.

"Many of my ideas about the store have come from other booksellers I've met and talked to. Our 'blended inventory' of new and used books was a concept I learned from Richard Klein at Book Revue in Huntington, New York. Booksellers have been very helpful and supportive. And I'm excited about the connections we'll have through Book Sense." --Nomi Schwartz