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New toy and bookshop planned for part of VBS space

Liquidation sale and building ownership transfer this week

May 07, 2014
LITTLETON— On Sunday, Clare Brooks, who worked at the Village Book Store for four years, discussed her grand vision for a new toy and bookshop for kids. The store is slated for part of the old VBS space.

Moving quickly on the plan, Brooks said, "my goal is Father's Day weekend" for the opening of Little Village Toy and Book Shop.

The new store will share the former VBS space with a new barista bar run by

Emshika Alberini, owner of next-door Chang Thai Café. Brooks believes the two businesses, which will connect through French doors, will complement each other well.

Alberini is set to buy the VBS building, with expected closing on Friday. After the upstairs is subdivided, the toy and bookshop will be on the right, Brooks said. One Stitch, Two Stitch and the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen gallery, currently accessed only from Mill Street, will remain.

Brooks will really get rolling on getting the new space ready after the VBS liquidation sale, set for Friday and Saturday. The Thomas Hirchak Company, based in Vermont, will manage the VBS liquidation. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Shelves, chairs, tables, arts, games and "Books, BOOKS, BOOKS!" are part of the sale, according to an ad for the event. The flier also notes, "Everything MUST go."

Brooks has been amazed at the community support for her idea of a new spot for kids in Littleton. Within 48 hours of establishing the store's Facebook page, she said the site reached 6,300 hits. After getting such early positive feedback, Brooks thought to herself, "You're on to something here."

A large market exists, Brooks continued, for a location that sells items focused on children. The store will have some adult books and will do special orders for all types of books, she said, but kids will be the main focus.

Inspiration for the new store came from the tragic loss of Brooks' mom, who died in Ireland earlier this year. "She spent her life reading," Brooks said. Her mom's ability to speak with great knowledge on many topics was very motivating, Brooks said. At the end of her life, Brooks added that her mom asked her to finish putting names on bookstore gift cards for relatives, something Brooks' mother used to promote an interest in reading in the family.

Brooks' two children, especially her five-year-old daughter, already know the power of reading. This motivates Brooks to make the new store become a way to promote educational programs for the young. Her "play, laugh, learn" philosophy for kids serves as a foundation behind the effort for the new store, Brooks said.

To advance the shop's educational mission, Brooks has begun a major outreach campaign to area teachers. Such links are another way to promote a sustainable business model, Brook said. Connections to the Littleton Studio School for in-store demonstrations are also in the works.

Several people with experience at VBS, including owner Jeff Wheeler, have been consulting with Brooks in recent weeks. "I couldn't be doing it without any of them," Brooks said.

Some VBS employees will likely join Brooks when Little Village Toy and Book Shop opens. The former VBS employees "were the core of the book store," Brooks said. Their expertise will help the new store do well, she continued.

Many people traveled quite a distance to enjoy VBS, Brooks said, and she hopes that continues in the new store. "We want to have people drive three hours to be there," she said.

Brooks envisions a place for kids and families beyond just the buying merchandise. She hopes for many "low and no cost activities for kids," for example. Additionally, "We would love to have authors come in," she continued, as a means to continue the VBS tradition of readings and other events focused on connecting the public to the store.

Activity days and educational displays are planned for the store, Brooks said. A monthly world focus will put the spotlight on a given country. This provides a chance to feature history, art, and food from different nations across the globe, Brooks said.

Even with much planning and the unknowns of business ownership, Brooks believes community support and help from many around her can make Little Village Toy and Book Shop a success. "There's a lot of people helping make this happen," she said.

Her optimism made Brooks proceed with the dream of the new shop, she said. Something even more powerful contributed to the decision, as well. In conclusion, Brooks said, "That's what mom would want me to do."

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