Pleasantville’s Village Bookstore Under New Management
by Linda Viertel –
Inveterate booksellers, Roy Solomon and Yvonne vanCort, owners of Pleasantville’s iconic Village Bookstore, have handed the reins to Jennifer Kohn who took over on December 8. After 15 years of owning and running their store, which had existed in seven different village locations since 1972, they found just the right local resident eager to continue providing the same personalized, welcoming and engaging community gathering place for book lovers.
Roy and Yvonne, as they are known by their loyal customers, have lived in Pleasantville for over 40 years, in the same home Yvonne had grown up in and where they raised their two children. Before deciding to own a bookstore, Solomon had been an English teacher at City University, then worked at his family’s specialized printing company. VanCort had been an occupational therapist at St. Luke’s Psychiatric Daycare, then an avid fiber artist at home while taking weaving classes at Marymount. Once Yvonne convinced Roy that they should become bookstore owners (he loved it right away) just after the Jacob Burns Film Center opened, their location became a “second lobby” for The Burns. Both venues helped to revitalize Pleasantville’s inner village and have been vibrant, ongoing gathering places in the region ever since.
Small independent bookstores used to exist in most Westchester villages, towns and cities, but those that survived the arrival of Barnes & Noble and Borders are few and far between these days. While these large stores may have substantially disappeared due to online shopping and the increased use of electronic reading technology, Solomon said, “People still like good bookstores where they can browse, seek out specialty books, get owner recommendations or order an unusual title they just discovered.”
In addition to providing a community gathering space, Solomon and vanCort supplied books for approximately 150 to 200 events throughout the year. They personally went to The Burns, various libraries, the Hudson Valley Writers Center, Spoken Interlude, local theatres, Pace University and many other places where programs offered authors, movie-makers, speakers and panelists book sales for an audience eager to learn more. But, they were becoming increasingly aware over the years that they needed to find the right person to take over their beloved Village Bookstore.
And they did: Jennifer Kohn, who has lived in Pleasantville for 13 years with her husband Scott and three sons, Alex, Kevin and Nate Searle. She had expressed an interest in buying the store for more than two years and is an avid reader with deep experience in marketing. Having built tutor.com, the first free online tutoring program for children who could not afford private tutoring, becoming chief marketing officer and then selling the entity to The Princeton Review, she was free to daydream. “I wanted to marry my love of reading, with my marketing skills and community. I have always participated in mission-based organizations and enjoyed being part of reading communities,” she explained.
Kohn knows that customers consider The Village Bookstore “their store,” and she plans to keep it that way, especially continuing a partnership with The Burns. What she is exploring is additional programming that the community wants: possibly a store-based book club, having community curators look at what additional books could be stocked, and a greater presence online through Instagram, a website, and increased Facebook usage.
The Village Bookstore’s booksellers are a font of reliable, varied literary knowledge, and Kohn plans to keep the entire staff: Wendy Tagney, author Marilyn Johnson, Cam Demaree, magazine writer Helen Meurer, and Molly Hummel. All are extremely well-read and passionate about differing literary genres, so they can recommend a wide variety of reading material to customers of all ages thanks to their varying areas of expertise.
Only a well-run, independent, community-minded bookstore run by passionate readers who care about providing a welcoming environment can create that kind of informative space. Roy and Yvonne did just that, but now they are turning the page. Their loyal customers will miss them, but Kohn will pick up the mantle and write her own new chapter based on their solid foundation.
If You Go
10 Washington Avenue, Pleasantville
Hours: Mon.-Thurs.: 9 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
Fri. and Sat.: 9 a.m.-8-30 p.m.
Sun.: 11 a.m.-6 p.m.