Eye on Business:

HINESBURG - Why would anyone open a new bookstore in Vermont during the worst economic downturn since the mid 1970s - maybe even the 1930s?

Well, if you love books and bookpeople, are an experienced professional bookbuyer and seller, and you believe books are an intellectual portal to a better place especially in gloomy times, then why not? Many great American business success stories can be traced to hard times. Risk is a part of successful businesses and a part of successful lives.

Despite penny-pinching customers avoiding other kinds of retailers, bookstores nationally have been doing better than many experts expected. Many independent booksellers reported stronger than expected Christmas gift sales - compare the price of a book to an H.D. television set or an iPod gift. (Besides, a T.V. or iPod doesn't offer much in the way of intellectual stimulation or emotional satisfaction like a gift or creative gifts.)

So, let's introduce businesswoman and bookseller Natacha Liuzzi, owner of Hinesburg's first bookshop - Brown Dog Books and Gifts.

Liuzzi learned the ins and outs of the book trade while employed at Vermont's most respected independent bookshops: Bear Pond Books, Book Rack, and the Flying Pig. She was a major bookbuyer for each bookseller. Now she's on her own and her new Hinesburg business venture, which opened in November, is starting to get noticed.

An independent, small town bookstore, Brown Dog occupies the former site of Showtime Video rental store in the same shopping plaza as Estes Hardware, located along Commerce Street and Route 116, just north of central Hinesburg.

Surprisingly, in addition to books and gifts, Brown Dog continues DVD video rentals. So, as Liuzzi remains true to the shop's mission there's always something more to surprise a customer. She sells not only local and international fiction and non-fiction book titles - and many children's books - but also greeting cards, art prints, magazines, and Vermont-made craft gifts.

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