By Phyl Newbeck
Natacha Liuzzi was always a voracious reader, and long after she had grown up she kept the books she loved from her childhood. That love was the impetus for a fulfilling career surrounded by those books and others. Liuzzi started working as a pre-school teacher but eventually became a children’s librarian in Hinesburg. Subsequently, she was hired to work for the Flying Pig Bookstore part-time and went from there to Bear Pond Books in Montpelier and a few other locations before she opened Brown Dog Books and Gifts in Hinesburg in November of 2008. Last March she moved the store to its new location on Mechanicsville Road.
Liuzzi said the store has done well since the move. She enjoys having use of the space outside under the canopy. In the summer the store sponsors free music events as well as a summer solstice celebration. “Our loyal customers find us,” Liuzzi said, adding with some regret that a small portable sign used to signal the store’s location has recently been removed by the town.
Liuzzi readily admits that operating an independent bookstore is not an easy task for a number of reasons including on-line buying, big box stores, and the proliferation of e-readers. “Amazon doesn’t contribute to local taxes,” she said. “They don’t sell tickets to school plays.” Liuzzi acknowledged that the current economic climate doesn’t help either. “I get that,” she said. “I’m living it too.”
Liuzzi feels very strongly about supporting the local economy. Her devotion to Vermont authors was repaid by four illustrators who painted the mural in the back of the store. While her first love is children’s, books she sells as many adult titles as those for the younger set. Liuzzi also carries a variety of Vermont products ranging from syrups, condiments, and honey to socks, hats, woodwork, and Adirondack chairs. A crafter in her own right, Liuzzi supports the creative output of her neighbors. She has dabbled in a variety of media including beadwork, quilting, and knitting but these days she is primarily a rug hooker.
Liuzzi has lived in Hinesburg for 28 years which is longer than she’s ever lived in one place. “I always had a dream to open a shop in this town,” she said. “I wanted to sell things that people would normally have to drive to Burlington or Montpelier for.” When Liuzzi moved her store she was approached by both Richmond and Bristol about relocating to their municipalities. While she appreciated the walkability of those communities, she had no intention of leaving the town she holds dear. “I love this community,” she said. “It’s got great energy and some really great people.”
Liuzzi grew up in Connecticut but every summer weekend the family travelled up to their camp in South Ryegate. Liuzzi admits she grumbles every winter about moving someplace warmer, but the feeling doesn’t last. “All it takes is one trip to Connecticut, Boston, or New York City,” she said. “I can’t wait to come back home. Interstate 91 is the first sigh of relief but when I hit 89 my blood pressure drops because I know I’m almost there.”