A Conversation with Lisa Sullivan, Owner of Bartleby’s Books

By: Jerry Goldberg, The Commons

ROBERT F ROST wrote in 1920: “Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice.” In 2011, we learned that one doesn’t have to wait until hell freezes over, thank you. Water itself — in its most liquid form — proved hellishly devastating to us. That April, a one-two punch knocked the life out of the iconic Brooks House, the largest building in downtown Brattleboro. An electrical fire and the thousands of gallons of water needed to put it out, put 60 residents out of their homes forever and 15 businesses out of business until they could figure out next moves. One of those businesses was the Book Cellar, a venerable member of the town’s bookstore family. It was purchased about six years earlier by Lisa Sullivan, who six months prior to that had bought Bartleby’s Books in Wilmington. Barely four months after the fire, a good swath of the lower half of Vermont felt the fury of Tropical Storm Irene. Bartleby’s inventory was destroyed, and the store itself needed an almost-total rebuild. Arguably few communities were hit as hard as Wilmington, with much of its downtown washed off its foundation. Brattleboro and Wilmington — and, really, southern Vermont writ large — responded to these hits. The going had gotten tougher than imaginable, and the tough — bona fide local heroes — got going as never before. One such hero was Sullivan. While the dream and reality called the Book Cellar were over, Bartleby’s Books had to be saved. She did just that. She does and will do everything possible to ensure the future of the bookstore as central to a thriving Wilmington. The two of us first met in 2013 while on the post-Irene circuit of progress reports by community business folk. She was representing Wilmington Works, the downtown organization (for which she served as co-chair), and I the Brattleboro Area Chamber. In addition, she sat on the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce board for eight years.

Click to read complete interview: Part 1 & Part 2