By Dan Colton
Within half an hour on a December Sunday, more than 100 people came through the doors at Phoenix Books.
Part of the store’s holiday celebrations, Dr. Seuss’ “The Grinch” made an appearance that had families lining up down Center Street, waiting for their opportunity to snap some photographs with the furry green creature who has garlic in his soul.
Chittenden resident Brenna Couchman came with her daughter, 7-year-old Alya Giannetti. Couchman said she has read “The Grinch” many times to her daughter.
Alya’s favorite part of “The Grinch” is at the end, she said, when he returns all the Christmas presents.
“It was just mean to take that stuff,” Alya said. “I thought he was never going to give them back.”
Mike DeSanto, co-owner of downtown’s Phoenix Books, said he was expecting about 300 people throughout the day. The early arrivals and sizable turnout exemplified Rutland’s overwhelming support for its new bookstore, he said.
“If it keeps up like this, I’ll look like a business genius,” DeSanto said. “It’s been super … The community continues to support what we’re doing.”
DeSanto is part owner of all three Phoenix Books locations. They are located in Burlington, Essex and on Center Street downtown.
He decided to tie in a food drive with the Grinch event to donate to the Community Cupboard in Rutland. Once all the food has been collected, DeSanto said he calculates the approximate worth of the donations and matches the value with cash.
“It’s important that we have food, but sometimes it’s important to have money to run the [Community Cupboard] program,” he said.
Tricia Huebner, Rutland’s Phoenix Books co-owner, said the food drive was a great fit for the Grinch event.
“The whole point with ‘The Grinch’ is he learns to grow his heart,” Huebner said.
About an hour after the doors opened, dozens of canned and boxed goods had been donated. Huebner said some families forgot to bring a food donation but found a way to chip in, too.
“People have said they forgot to bring something so they donated cash,” she said.
Although Phoenix Books has books for readers of every age, Huebner said children’s and family events tend to attract the most people.
Kids traipsed around the store between shelves, wearing balloon-animal hats and waiting for their chance to meet The Grinch. At times, it was difficult to maneuver through the shop. Groups of about 30 or 40 were ushered in one at a time to reduce floor-space crowding.
“We’re bringing the granddaughter down,” said Rutland resident Lisa Manfredi. Manfredi said she is more than happy to see a kid-friendly business bring additional shopping choices to the city.
“I’m happy to have a bookstore back in Rutland,” after Book King left last year, she said. “Not everyone has an electronic device and there is a big selection.”
Other families said Phoenix Books encourages youngsters to put down the video games and pick up a story.
“It’s great they have something to do for kids around here,” said Poultney resident Tonya Blair, holding her 4-year-old son, Bo. “Hopefully this will introduce more books to kids.
“This is great,” Blair said.