opened as well. In 2014, Castleton University signed
a five-year lease in the city center for the Castleton
Polling Institute and its entrepreneurial, community
service and internship programs.
So the closing of Book King, in 2014, came as an
unwelcome plot twist in the city’s comeback story.
Studies commissioned by the Downtown Rutland
Partnership estimated that more than $1 million in
sales was being lost to bookstores outside Rutland
on an annual basis. Recruiting a bookseller became a
top priority for the revitalization movement. Costello
started putting out calls to independent bookstores
around the state.
Mike DeSanto answered Steve Costello’s call on a Tuesday in November of 2014. He and his wife, Renee Reiner, had been in the
independent bookstore business since 1995, when
they decided to change careers and move from Bos-
ton to Vermont to take over their first shop, which
they eventually sold. They had been operating Phoe-
nix Books in Essex since 2007. They opened a second
store in Burlington in 2012, even though the national
chain, Borders, had just closed on the Church Street
Marketplace. Costello knew a little about Phoenix
Books, but he didn’t realize the extent to which the
Burlington community had rallied to fill the void
Borders left in their central shopping district.
During their first phone conversation, DeSanto
described how he and Reiner had raised much-needed
capital for their Burlington venture by emulating a
Community Supported Enterprise model. They asked
community members to directly invest in the new
store’s startup by pre-buying books, purchasing a five-year “book club” membership or simply making a loan
to the business.
Within nine months of Borders’ closing, Phoenix
Books had signed a lease for 7,000 square feet just off
Church Street, renovated the new space and opened its
doors to the public. They had raised more than half of
the needed capital — about $425,000 — from members of the community, in increments as small as $100.
“As soon as I heard that, I started calling friends
and business associates, people I knew who loved
Rutland and had the financial wherewithal to make
a substantial contribution and could decide quickly,”
Two days later on a blustery morning, DeSanto
drove to Rutland for a meeting. He was delighted, if
surprised, to be greeted by a group of some of the city’s
major players, including Mayor Chris Louras, Mike
Coppinger from the Downtown Rutland Partnership,
and local property owner and developer Mark Foley Jr.
“They asked me if I was interested. I told them I’m