Michael Schiavo has worked in bookstores most of his adult life; as a trade and textbook manager at the Yale Bookstore; in managerial positions at the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT; and currently The Bookstore in Lenox. Michael came to 1Berkshire through The Business Bootcamp program launched last year in partnership with MCLA as an eager visionary hoping to flesh out plans for The Unruly Servant, a boutique bookstore paired with a curated selection of local craft beer and wine.
Michael is now less than a year away from opening The Unruly Servant in Northern Berkshire County, hammering out the last details and getting ready to launch an exciting new business in an already thriving creative community. This month, we caught up with Michael to learn more about his project.
Michael, 1Berkshire has been working with you for over a year, but for our readers who don’t know you, could you tell us a little bit about yourself, and why you chose the Berkshires as your home?
I was born in Concord, MA, and raised in CT, with a brief stint in GA. I have a B.A. in Humanities from the University of Connecticut, an M.F.A. in Writing and Literature from the Bennington College Writing Seminars, and an M.A.E.C. from St. John’s College. My poetry and other writings have appeared in such publications as The Yale Review, Tin House, McSweeney’s, Prelude, and The Awl. Douglas Crase wrote the foreword to my first book, a full-length poem, The Mad Song.
I have lived in Southern Vermont and the Berkshires for over a decade and spent time growing up at my family’s hunting cabin in Jamaica, VT. This whole swath of New England from the farms of Connecticut up through the Berkshires to the Green Mountains is my home.
What’s your vision for The Unruly Servant? What should we expect, and what makes it different from a “regular” bookstore?
The Unruly Servant is a bookbar: books across all genres and interests, from classics to cutting-edge, including new and current books and bestsellers, alongside a selection of craft beer and wine. We will also be offering coffee, tea, and other nonalcoholic beverages. If I don’t have your book in stock, I’ll be able to order it just as fast as Amazon can. You can expect a regular series of author readings, musical performances, and talks on important and interesting topics. This space will also be open to local groups and individuals to hold events of their own.
Aside from books, beer, and wine, I’ll have a small selection of sidelines such as cards, postcards, bumper stickers, and a few other fun and interesting nicknacks. For audiophiles, I’m also hoping to have a selection of new issue vinyl records, focusing on classic albums from all genres.
In report after report, the Berkshires are lauded for having a strong system of support for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Who did you reach out to for support?
1Berkshire has been enormously helpful in this whole process. The Business Bootcamp helped orient me to innovative ways of thinking about a start-up. Both Mayor Alcombright and Mayor Bernard of North Adams have been very enthusiastic about the prospect of an independent bookstore in the area. I’ve also had great and advice and encouragement from faculty members at MCLA and Williams College, as well as Mike and Lois Daunis, the former owners of Papyri. From the beginning, the 1Berkshire Economic Development Specialist, David Curtis, has helped me fortify my experience and instincts as a creative person and bookseller with new and growing business skills, but also to be imaginative in my approach.
Beyond those specific people, almost everyone I talk with and meet in North Adams and Williamstown has been letting me know that a great independent bookstore is definitely something that would thrive in North County, alongside thousands of students and cultural tourists.
Right now, what are your biggest challenges?
My challenges are locating an appropriate space in North County (approximately 2,000 sq. ft. of floor space with additional room for receiving/office and space to build a cold storage unit for kegs) and raising funds for renovations, opening expenses, and initial operating costs.
Anything else you want people to know?
I would love to have a soft opening in early/mid-May and then open the doors officially on Memorial Day weekend. My business plan is solid, scalable, and evolving, and I know there’s enthusiasm for an independent bookstore in North County. It’s going to take a lot effort between now and then, but with my bookselling knowledge and curatorial experience, and with the support from the community, my dream come true is right around the corner.
Anyone who’s interested in finding out more about The Unruly Servant can email Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org.