“It’s the symbol of the impossible dream,” says Elizabeth Bluemle when describing how her shop, The Flying Pig Bookstore, got its unique name.
Elizabeth cofounded the shop along with Josie Leavitt in 1996 after moving to small-town Vermont from New York City. Originally located in Charlotte, Vermont (pronounced shar-LOT), the shop moved to its current location in nearby Shelburne thirteen years ago and has served the community ever since.
Conceived as a children’s bookstore, the pair wanted a name with child appeal and a dash of whimsy. “I was on my way to a meeting about the store, and it popped into my head,” Elizabeth says. “There was a toy store in New York called Pennywhistle Toys, and I wanted a name like that.”
Given what she calls the “ridiculous idea” of opening an independent bookshop in a town of 3,500 people during the age of the big-box bookstore boom, the name just seemed to fit, and The Flying Pig Bookstore was born.
The shop did indeed operate as a children’s bookstore for its first few years, eventually expanding into a more full-service inventory of new titles for all ages. But it hasn’t forgotten its roots. Today, the shop still offers an impressive inventory of children’s literature, which greets customers upon stepping into the cozy shop.
“We’re about sixty-five percent children’s books,” says Elizabeth, who runs the shop fulltime since Josie retired a few years ago (while also authoring her own children’s picture books), “so we’re the opposite of a lot of other stores like us.”
But that doesn’t mean adult readers won’t find plenty to interest them in The Flying Pig. An impressive inventory of fiction, nonfiction, classics, local works, and more lines the shelves, and newly released hardcover books are discounted twenty percent off the list price. There are even helpful tips peppered around the shop, like handwritten recommendations and tidbits such as an ordered list of the popular Inspector Gamache mystery series titles by Louise Penney. The shop also maintains a healthy schedule of author events and book clubs, as well as participates in a variety of off-site activities.
That community-minded focus has endeared the shop to the town. While Ubering over to The Flying Pig, my driver informed me that it was his late grandmother’s favorite store – a feeling obviously shared by many. The shop has received the Lucille Micheels Pannell Award for Best Children’s Bookstore in the country (2008), a hand-selling award from Candlewick Press, two “best of” awards from Yankee Magazine, and was named by The Wall Street Journal as one of seven bookstores around the country that help serve as anchors for their towns.
So what may have started as a seemingly impossible dream more than two decades ago has led to a thriving business. “As long as the pig flies,” jokes Elizabeth, “we’re okay.”
It looks like that pig isn’t only flying, it’s soaring quite high.
The Flying Pig Bookstore is located at 5247 Shelburne Road, Shelburne, Vermont. Open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. with “whimsically determined evening hours on occasional summer and holiday season evenings.”