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A 50-year love of the printed word: Great Barrington’s Bookloft celebrates anniversary

“My goal is for The Bookloft to continue for the next 50 years and continue to raise a generation of readers that love stories,” current Bookloft owner Giovanni Boivin told The Berkshire Edge.

Great Barrington — The Bookloft celebrated the 50th anniversary of its opening on Saturday, May 11. The bookstore was started in 1974 by Eric and Ev Wilska and was originally located at Barrington Plaza on Stockbridge Road.

Back when The Bookloft first opened its doors, the top-selling New York Times fiction books were “Burr” by Gore Vidal, “Watership Down” by Richard Adams, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” by John le Carré, and “Centennial” by James Michener. The top-selling New York Times nonfiction books in 1974 were “Alistair Cooke’s America” by Alistair Cooke, “The Joy of Sex” by Alex Comfort, “Plain Speaking” by Merle Miller, and “All the President’s Men” by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.

Forty-two years after the store’s founding, in 2016, Eric and Ev Wilska sold the bookstore to Pamela Pescosolido, who previously operated a bookselling business and an art-supply store. “Ultimately, by hiring good people and staying with it, we became a beloved town institution,” Eric Wilska said in an interview with the American Booksellers Association in 2016. “At least three or four other bookstores came into the immediate area over the years, but for whatever reason they didn’t survive and we did.”

In 2020, after 46 years at Barrington Plaza, Pescosolido moved The Bookloft to a new building at 63 State Road, which was the former office of Dr. Susan Thompson.

The entrance of The Bookloft. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

“I think if you’re a reader, if you want a bookstore, you will find a bookstore,” Pescosolido said to The Berkshire Edge about the move back in January 2020. “When I lived in California, I had to drive an hour to the nearest bookstore. Smaller bookstores are doing well because we can do what [Barnes & Noble] can’t, which is to relate on a one-to-one basis with our community.”

In late 2022, Pescosolido sold The Bookloft to employee Giovanni Boivin, a Lenox and Pittsfield native who was originally hired as a part-time employee in September 2016.

The changing of the guards: Pam Pescosolido passes the keys to Giovanni Boivin in late 2022. Photo courtesy of The Bookloft.

Drag Story Hour Berkshires held a children’s story hour during the 50th anniversary celebration on May 11.

Drag Story Hour of the Berkshires at the Bookloft’s 50th anniversary celebration. Photo courtesy of The Bookloft via Facebook.

Despite the prevalence of online booksellers like Amazon and multimillion-dollar bookstores like Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores across the country continue to thrive. According to Statista, as of 2023, there are 2,185 independent bookstore companies and 2,599 independent bookstore locations in the United States, a significant increase from 2013, when there were 1,632 independent bookstore companies and 1,971 bookstore locations in the United States.

“I think the big reason why independent bookstores continue to thrive is because people just love going into brick-and-mortar bookstores, and they love having something down the street from them,” Boivin told The Berkshire Edge. “This makes it a lot more convenient to browse. People love books, and they all still love paper pages. There’s just a sense of tactility, the feel of the book, and the smell of the ink.”

Boivin said that supporting independent bookstores is just one way to “fight back against big box corporations that don’t put their employees first and place their products at a high value.”

“My goal is for The Bookloft to continue for the next 50 years and continue to raise a generation of readers that love stories,” Boivin said. “If nothing else, books are a form of escapism. You can educate yourself in different ways through books and the stories inside those books. They have a way of teaching you about different perspectives in life.”

Some of the many books for sale at The Bookloft. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
According to Bookloft owner Giovanni Boivin, the store has an inventory of over 10,000 books. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
The bookstore also has a designated section for children. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

For more information about The Bookloft, visit its website.

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