Minding the Books

Jack blogs on the business matters of bookstore life

Since opening our bookstore we’ve kept a close eye on our sales from month to month. This was initially part of the process of calculating sales tax, but as we moved from year one to year two, we realized that comparing the same month in different years couldn’t hurt our planning. (We were business virgins when we started, but we have learned quickly.)

That, in turn, allowed us to see how we were building our customer base in succeeding years – until we hit a plateau around year three or four. We were comfortably aware that we had probably reached saturation point, in terms of our region’s ‘willing to drive to the bookstore’ market, but then things changed again after Little Bookstore was published.

To begin with its effect coincided with our usual pre- and post- Christmas peak (believe it or not January can be a good month for bookstores, as people spend their Christmas gift money). The Christmas Factor made it hard to separate the two. Traditionally, the period from late January through late March has always been very low. In fact we have come to expect a goodly handful of ‘cashless wonder’ days during this period, when people either use accumulated credit or bring boxes of books in for credit. We brace ourselves and eat more mac and cheese.

But, here we are heading for the end of February 2013 and we’ve continued to be almost as busy as during that seasonal Christmas peak. The explanation seems to be that the folk who have read Little Bookstore are intrigued enough to want to experience both the bookstore and Big Stone for real.

It’s becoming pretty easy to tell these nice folk as soon as they come into the shop, too! They have an expectant look about them; they smile at our cats and call them by name. They seek out ‘the rejection letter,’ and they just kind of hover in a satisfied way.

Once we twigged what was going on we would ask where they came from and discovered that our geographical footprint had grown. Quite a bit.

Funny though this may seem, as excited as I’d been about the book coming out, it had never occurred to me it would entice people to seek out our shop. But I’m certainly glad they are. Without exception, they’ve been nice people, pleasant visitors, appreciative of the town without a whiff of “how… quaint” to them. They’re good conversationalists. AND they’re buying books.

What more could a bookslinger ask for?

Little Brown Jug

The weekly guest blog from Jack

Wendy has blogged more than once about the particularities of living above the bookstore and the overlap between our personal lives and our bookstore lives. To be honest we don’t see a division – the bookstore is a big part of our lives and it’s hard to imagine living any other way now.

Having someone walk in when we’ve forgotten to lock the door and we’re eating breakfast or dinner at the bookstore table is only a problem when we have to grab the dogs before they make the dash for freedom – or we’re not exactly dressed for the occasion.

But there’s coziness about all this that we haven’t really touched on before and it struck me anew just a few mornings ago in the form of our ‘the little brown jug’, or to be precise our ‘little brown sugar bowl’.


Most mornings I wander sleepily down to the shop accompanied by dogs and cats to our little downstairs semi-kitchen to set up the coffee, switch on the lap-top and examine the breakfast options (for humans and animals). On this particular morning my eyes focused on the sugar bowl in all its familiarity and I was suddenly struck by the power of objects to give us context and comfort.

That humble brown bowl talks to me without words. It says “how did you sleep?” and “what do you have planned today?” and “we all live here together and that’s most satisfying.”

Ah – satisfying! That’s the word I was looking for. It is satisfying to wake up surrounded by a movable feast downstairs with some immovable objects in it. The little brown sugar bowl (and some of its friends) give us that.