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The White Rose takes radical approach in digital age


Dec. 27, 2013
By G. Michael Dobbs

news@thereminder.com

HOLYOKE – Betty Kaplowitz doesn’t plan to have Wi-Fi in her new bookstore, The White Rose. In the era of virtual and digital, Kaplowitz is a radical: she wants people to talk to one another instead of being heads down into a laptop or smartphone.

And this reporter quickly noted Kaplowitz’s conversational skills by going off-topic during this interview.

The White Rose opened recently in the storefront of 284 High St., a building that Kaplowitz owns with Kristen Bachler. They moved to the area about five years ago from Nevada and first lived in Northampton. The pair has an interesting background with careers in music, newspaper publishing and other endeavors.

Bachler was looking for studio space – she is a painter – and Kaplowitz wanted to fulfill her long held dream of owning a bookstore.

“I secretly wanted a bookstore,” she said with a smile.

Four years ago they came to Holyoke. “We immediately fell in love,” Kaplowitz said. “There is something wonderful about Holyoke.”

They bought the building and began to renovate the storefront. The discovered the building’s original tin ceiling under a drop ceiling. An antique cash register – it works, but it’s not used – adds a vintage touch.

They live in the apartment area above the store.

On the shelves are fiction and non-fiction books, photography and art. A coffee bar is in the back of the store. The goal Kaplowitz said is to create “a place where everyone feels comfortable.”

Both women readily described their political views as “beyond progressive,” and Kaplowitz said the books have been chosen to “provoke a conversation.”

One such subject is race relations and Bachler said that in Holyoke it is “the elephant in the room.”

She said, “When we first thought of moving to High Street, people said there were no stores there. There are stores, but if you were Puerto Rican, they didn’t exist.”

Kaplowitz plans to organize book groups, poetry readings and has begun discussing coordinating events with the library. Like any independent bookseller, Kaplowitz will be able to order books that are not on her shelves.

She also wants to emphasize the literary and visual works of Holyoke area artists and writers and plans to have signing events for new books as well.

Currently the store doesn’t have a website – that is coming for the future Kaplowitz said. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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