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Brandon bookstore closes

BRANDON — The polished but ancient wood floors creaked with familiarity last Saturday as old friends and customers stopped by the Briggs Carriage Bookstore in downtown Brandon one last time.
Erin Keyes, 18, considers Briggs an integral part of her life. Having grown up in Brandon, some of Keyes’s earliest memories are set in the bookstore.
“Just seeing something I’ve grown up with end, it’s like part of my childhood going away,” she said, as she sat in the bench nook of the children’s section with her mom, Laura King.
“Probably the thing I’ll miss is the Harry Potter parties,” King said.
“And the poetry readings, and seeing my friends work here, and the chess club,” Keyes added. “There’s just so much this store has brought to the community, it’s hard to see it go.”
The store closed on Dec. 31 after 14 years in business. Faced with raising three little girls under the age of three with the arrival of their twins from China a year ago, plus the challenge of making a profit in the world of e-books and Amazon, owners Barbara Ebling and Matthew Gibbs made the decision to close the store about six months ago.
Over the last month in particular, business has been uncharacteristically brisk, and on Saturday, Ebling joked that maybe they should stay open.
She said she will miss many things, but especially the people.
“I don’t know what we would’ve done in this town if we hadn’t had this bookstore,” she said, “because we met so many amazing people.”
She recalled the story of two mutual friends, both science-fiction fans, who were introduced at the bookstore and married less than a year later.
“I love the serendipity of this place,” she said. “And I love that story much more than the one about the people that signed their divorce papers upstairs.”
The Ball and Chain Café on the second floor was the sight of many concerts, readings and book signings, and Ebling recalled one event during a very special time. Northeast Kingdom author Howard Frank Mosher visited Briggs for a reading in the fall of 2004. It was during the Major League Baseball playoffs, and Mosher, a lifelong Red Sox fan, had written a book entitled “Waiting for Ted Williams” about the Red Sox and their quest for a second World Series title.
 “After the reading, we went down to the pub (on Central Street) and watched the Red Sox-Yankees playoff game,” Ebling recalled. “The Yankees killed them, and Howard was so sad, but Boston went on to win the next four in a row and the World Series that year! It was meant to be and I love that Howard was part of that story and I’ll always remember going to the bar and watching the Red Sox with Howard Frank Mosher.”
Over in the cookbook section, Patti LaDuke was lamenting the store’s closing with fond memories as well.
“I came in here the day they opened and I’m here the day they closed,” she said proudly. “It’s the end of an era.”
One by one, customers brought stacks of books marked down 50 percent to the register and thanked Ebling for the bookstore as her two-year-old daughter, Callie, played behind the front desk. She said the sentiment has been repeated endlessly over the past month.
“Lately, I’ve really been reminded of the joy of bookselling,” she said earnestly. “How important it is, and how no amount of Kindles and e-books can take that away.”
She said Briggs customers want to hold books in their hands and turn pages, and they want their kids to appreciate real books the same way.
“Yes, there are bookstores closing, but there are bookstores opening, too,” she said. “And they love their customers. They listen to them, and they hug them … and Amazon doesn’t do that.”

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