Written by Linda Portney Goldstein, Editorial@Antonnews.com Wednesday, 19 June 2013 00:00
Patti Vonk announced earlier this month that she would be handing over the reigns of the Dolphin Bookshop to a new owner, long time employee Judith Mitzner.
Most of us in town don’t remember a time when Dolphin Bookshop wasn’t headed by a member of the Vonk family. Yet, the store first opened in 1946 and there were two previous owners. Mitzner’s recent purchase of this Port Washington treasure follows a history of employees taking over the ownership of the shop.
Dorothea Vonk, Patti’s mother, first came to Dolphin as an employee and purchased the shop in the early seventies, making it part of the fabric of the Vonk family. When Dorothea decided it was time to leave the shop, it was her daughter Patti who took over. Now the reigns have been passed to another member of the Dolphin Bookshop “family”.
Patti Vonk faced many challenges during her ownership; the competition of the large chain stores and then online purchasing; the advent of e-books and, of course, two changes in location. But through it all she had a vision of what the shop could be. She added games, toys, and eventually the café.
Mitzner does not intend to make any substantive changes. She said that customers “will find the same Dolphin” and over time there will be small steps going forward along the path that Vonk has set in motion. “We will continue to strengthen the book and toy content. And we have recently added cold fresh pressed organic juices to the café menu.”
As for her reason for taking over the shop, Mitzner said, “Everyone who works here never wants to leave. There is something infectious about being in the store. Employees immerse themselves in the details and are vested in its success. It just seemed the natural thing to do.”
As to the future of independent book shops like Dolphin, Mitzner cited statistics from Penguin books that say book sales are increasing and e-book sales have leveled off during the past year.
Mitzner acknowledged that it is a big responsibility to be taking over a town institution “but I intend to continue the vision. I don’t want to make any major changes. I want people to know this is the same Dolphin you know.”
For her part, Vonk said that her vision has been realized and she is “confident with Judith at the helm of the 67 year old shop. For me it is like raising a child and then letting it sprout its wings to fly.”