Once an 1842 gristmill, the Bookmill in Montague, Mass. brings students in the Pioneer Valley an alternative study spot with shelves of used books and old armchairs in a large mill house alongside the Sawmill River.
Amherst College freshman Kai Goldynia was sitting outside the bookstore on a porch area that looks out onto the river. He recently discovered the Bookmill and has been going back regularly.
“It’s a different type of working environment. It’s a lot more academic in my opinion,” said Goldynia. “I’m much more capable of studying here, and it’s also great to get away from campus a little bit.”
Amongst the mazes of bookshelves are old chairs, couches, and desks looking out onto the riverside and woods surrounding the Bookmill. Although it is located about 30 minutes from Amherst on 440 Greenfield Rd. in Montague, most students are willing to make the trip.
“I really like the atmosphere, and I like the river in the background. It’s very pretty. I like the used book selection and the music selection and it’s a great place to come study. It’s more fun than the library,” said UMass Amherst senior Lauren Chase.
The Beatles played in the background, as Chase studied at a table in the corner of the Turn it Up! music store, which sells mostly used CDs, records, and movies.
The mill property also houses the Lady Killigrew Cafe, Night Kitchen Restaurant, an antique shop, and art studio. These are all separate businesses, but their close vicinity in the Montague Mill allows them to work together as a community.
Smith College junior Lucia Carroll goes to the Bookmill at least twice a month. She said she enjoys the study environment and likes to get away from the “Smith bubble.”
Gabe Agree, a Hampshire College junior said, “I like to do work here because there’s not as much pretentiousness as Rao’s or Haymarket. I feel like I can do work here for a long time without moving.
The Bookmill has approximately 20,000 books that are sold generally for half the retail price, bought mostly from the public, and about 20 percent of the books are bought from wholesalers. The bookstore provides a collection of different genres including art, children, drama, science, cooking, and Eastern religions.
Karen Chapman of Montague has worked at the Bookmill for three years.
“It’s a beautiful spot. I like that it’s not like most bookstores. I feel like people are visiting and I am helping them.”
Susan Shilliday has owned the Bookmill for the last two years. She is originally from Pittsburg, and was first introduced to the Bookmill by her daughter, who attended Hampshire College.
“It’s one of the great places in the world, it’s one of a kind, it’s part bookstore, part community center, part spiritual vortex,” said Shilliday.
The Bookmill has developed a community atmosphere with its hosting of events including live music concerts, film festivals, book signings, and readings.
“The mission of the Bookmill is to provide a place where people who love books can love them and where people can feel comfortable just being and wondering around and looking at books,” said Shilliday.