TOWNSEND — According to the American Booksellers Association, more than 250 independent bookstores opened their doors in 2022, nearly five times the number that closed.
In many of Montana's small towns, the local bookstore is a hub of the community; over the past few years, best-selling author James Patterson has thrown his support behind these local bookstores and their employees.
Patterson donates his own money through his holiday bonus program.
This year 81 independent bookstore employees got a share of more than $470,000.
Six people at bookstores in Montana received the bonus:
- Mara Luther, Hamilton: Chapter One Book Store
- Kasey Kane Charbonneau, Bozeman: Country Bookshelf
- Charlie Crawford, Helena: Montana Book Company
- Betty Cherrey, Fairview: Page Turners
- Rachael Elliott-Brug, Townsend: Reading Leaves
- Julie Schultz, Billings: This House of Books
"I think with a name as big as Mr. Patterson's it draws attention to you," said Elliot-Brug, owner of Reading Leaves in Townsend.
The business moved into its current location on the 400 block of Broadway two years ago. The move has allowed Elliot-Brug to expand the space available to host community events and host the office for Townsend's newspaper of record.
They are also expanding to add a coffee bar in the back of the store.
Reading Leaves also helps people in need in Townsend through its annual Angel Tree.
"When the start bringing those gifts back," says Elliot-Brug, "it filled the whole front of the store with gifts. It just kind of really makes you happy to live in the community you live in."
Bookstore employees or owners must be nominated to receive money from the Patterson holiday bonus program. The awards range from $500 to $5000. Patterson does not put any stipulations on how people spend the money.
But Elliot-Brug acknowledges that for owners of many of the smallest bookstores the money goes back to the business: "This year it helped us pay some bills."