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Welcome Tootie, Shopsitter III

Many of you remember Andrew. And Mark and Sally. Now it is time to welcome Tootie to the family.

DSCN0154At Southern Festival of the Book, Tootie came up after my author talk and said, “You mean you let people live and work in your bookstore? Where do I sign?!”

And that’s how we met Tootie. She seemed an energetic bubbly sort, but we didn’t need a shopsitter at the time, so we lamented the lateness of our meeting, and went our ways.

But a few months later, when I hopped over to Winston-Salem for an event with BOOKMARKS (a very active group of literary women over there) who should be attending but Tootie and a friend. And by then we knew that we needed to be in Wisconsin for a week in April, for the Fox Cities Book Festival, and a couple of day trip events later that month.

“Are you still–” I started, and Tootie’s eyes lit.

“You need a shopsitter, don’t you!” she cried.

So that’s how Tootie drove over from Southern Pines, NC last week and spent two days tucked up in the guest room learning the ropes. She and our indoor/outdoor cat Beulah have taken a particular shine to one another, so Beulah has decided to come back inside and help Tootie with the shelving.

Tootie, who recently retired from a career in sales, quickly figured out the shop’s daily regime, and was “pure dead brilliant” with customers, as Jack said. She also got the full whack in one day. Our bookstore rejoices in a few “oddballs,” what we like to call colorful local characters. One young man is schizophrenic and obsessed with “getting a PhD in guitar.” Tootie, hearing him talking to Jack, told him what a great career choice he had made. “Music makes the world turn!” I’d never seen this guy look so happy.

For her part, Tootie brought along a copy of Little Bookstore and started pointing out landmarks to herself. Very META. She also identified the staff cats correctly based on the book, calling them by name on first meeting–which impressed Valkyttie, and that’s not easy to do.

I read the first (but only the first) of the Left Behind books on the flight between London and Chicago that opened the action. That kinda gave me the willies, but Tootie says she likes “being inside the Little Bookstore‘s covers, literally.”

Tootie will be working the shop from today through next Saturday, so if you’re in the area, come over and say hello. She’s got a great sense of humor. And Valkyttie likes her. You can’t say that about just anyone.

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, publishing, reading, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized

Observations on the Boston Globe’s article about Bookstore Ownership

Jack’s weekly guest blog

“Oh, some poo’er the giftie gi’e us, tae see oorsels as ithers see us” (Robert Burns)

(Oh that some power the gift would give us, to see ourselves as others see us.)

Over the last few months it’s been interesting to read the number of articles about the resurgence of independent bookstores around the country and see how Wendy’s book and our experiences have fit in. And to sit back and watch, with small “we told you so smirks” playing on our faces, how many people who thought just three years ago that bookstores were “dinosaurs” are now eating crow served up by brontosaurus waiters and waitresses.

Yes, we might be gloating slightly on that point….

On Sunday past the Boston Globe ran an article on wealthy retirees looking to ‘fulfill their dream’ of running a bookstore someday by buying ready-made shops that had gone ‘belly up’. (I’m sure many of them worked with their communities to support the previous owners, like folks elsewhere.)

It wasn’t clear from the article whether these were new-book stores or used-book stores and that has a certain bearing on their success potential, as does whether they are in buildings with mortgages or rents. As Wendy said in her talk for Books TV, “my advice to people wanting to open a bookshop starts with: don’t pay rent for a separate building. And you need to like people as much as you like books.”

That’s another key element, liking people, because you need to invite them in for community events –not just author signings, but actual hub activity. Invite all sorts of people, for all sorts of reasons tied to books. Give them needlework nights, game nights, astronomy nights, illustrator nights, nights of fun and flaming passion – well, fun, anyway.

While we were in Nashville at Southern Festival of the Book we chatted with Ethan Watters, author of Urban Tribes. HeĀ  is from San Francisco and was telling us about someone who had bought an existing bookstore out there planning to do just that–make it into a ‘community hub’ and thus keep it alive and thriving. This is an approach dear to our heart and also, we believe, one the great ‘unique selling points’ (MBA-speak; excuse me) of bookstores. It’s why we matter. It’s why we’re thriving.

The Globe article might focus a bit more on wealthy people in upmarket areas than on the small town shops Wendy and I saw in our 2011 Booking Down the Road Trip, or have heard from in the community of independent bookstore owners banding together since then, but our observations remain the same: those prepared to work hard and find fun in that will love running a bookstore. And they will understand one our favorite sayings: there are those who are rich, and then there are those who have a lot of money.

I do wonder, with a sympathetic grin, if those buying bookstores know what they’re letting themselves in for. We didn’t, when we started. Which leads me to another Scots saying: “Weel ye ken noo!”

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Filed under book reviews, bookstore management, Life reflections, shopsitting, writing