Member Highlight: Toadstool Bookshops

March 24, 2017 8:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Story by Annie Card, Annie Card Creative Services; Photo by Kimberly Peck

Much has happened in the world of books since the early 1970’s when Willard Williams, with the support of several family members, opened the Toadstool Bookshop on Main Street in Peterborough.

It was 1972, a year after Borders opened its first book store in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Borders and The Toadstool both sold books. Both were surrounded by communities of book lovers. The similarities end there.

In 2008 Borders was drowning in $350 million of debt. The bookstore giant began closing stores, and in 2011 Borders closed the last of its 659 stores, dismissing nearly 20,000 workers in total.

By contrast, Willard who was joined in the business by Holly when they married in 1974, never considered growing The Toadstool into a mega chain. He knew the Toadstool’s success was based on the quality of the shopping experience: the right selection of books, welcoming atmosphere, great service, and being connected to the community.

Willard opened the second Toadstool in the newly renovated Colony Mill, in Keene in 1983. “I believed in what the mill could be and in the importance of saving it,” Willard said. {Editor's Note: In 2016, Keene's Toadstool moved to 12 Emerald Street.}

In 1989 he opened another store in Milford, marking the Toad’s third and final bookshop. The Toadstool Bookshops have now served their local communities for a combined 101 years, and are still going strong with a team of 30 dedicated employees.

The game changers that marked the end for many other booksellers— Amazon, the recession, and the e-book revolution were no match for The Toadstool’s business philosophy of knowing your customer and taking care of them.

Willard is proud to be a part of Monadnock Buy Local, bringing businesses of all kinds together. He sees the positive effect it’s had in the region. “I’m excited for more businesses to join and feel the thrill of this movement. Together, we can do so much more.”

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