When I started this blog way back when, I vowed it would be an honest presentation of what I went through as a used bookstore owner. The good, the bad and all the in-between. Okay, I’ve not been very good about adding to the blog but hey, it’s hard work being a used bookstore lady. I’m not one who sits back and reads all day. I’d love to but when the boxes of books are all around me and those books are screaming at me to let them out I have to do as I’m told. Every day it’s sorting, pricing and shelving (SPS). I’m not complaining. That’s just the way it is. Reading for me is generally when I’m home.
So the other day, it came down to a battle of who’s the stronger. Me or a customer. To end the suspense, of course, it was me. But really, right? My store. My rules. Though I do feel I’m usually overly generous. Sometimes I can’t be. My priority has to be keeping the store alive. If I lose a sale or customer over principle than so be it. I can live with it.
I get it that pricing is arbitrary. But yet I have a pricing system that I think is very fair. Each book is generally individually priced taking into account many factors – out-of-print, condition, value, etc. – as well as what is being offered on the internet. When someone comes in looking for store credit – especially someone who has never been into the store before – and is demanding and questioning my quote and then my pricing all I can say is you aren’t going to win. I can and do dig in my heels. And frankly, I don’t need additional books. I need buyers. So if my quote isn’t satisfactory then you are welcome to take the books away with you. I won’t be upset nor take it personally. Just like my quote isn’t a slam to the customer but based on what works in my store. I got through the situation. He got through it as well and maybe no one was the winner in the long run. Of course, try as I might it did affect me. I don’t like people walking away thinking I wasn’t fair but yet are they taking into account my situation? I’m not getting into the nitty-gritty of the situation because I want to move past it.
About an hour later after the gentleman left a woman comes up to the counter with two books. One she is buying and one she wants to show me. Still reeling from the situation earlier I’m bracing myself. Now what? She shows me a book she brought in from an outside sale bin. All hardcover books are $1.00. Paperbacks 50 cents. She opens the book to show me that someone tucked in a one dollar bill. Someone paying it forward. Ah…perfect! That was the way I ended my day and that’s where I’ll end this blog entry.
Yes, I’ve become one. BUT, I’m working on improving and not being quite so crazy. Which in itself is craziness. Two words…storage units. Yes, I have storage units. Isn’t that crazy? Well, I think so. But last month I got through one so…one less. And trying to get through another one this month. The goal is to keep one and use that to work from. That makes sense, doesn’t it? I have little to no room here within the store for boxes that I need to go through. Some times I’ve so much inventory that I’ll just pile books – artistically, of course – in the front window because there’s just no room for the books. Anywhere. When you see ‘artistically’ piled books in the front window…well, now you know. Don’t get me wrong. Having inventory is a great thing. Of course! I’m not actually complaining except for when I get my monthly storage bill. Yikes! And that explains why I’m not buying books. Not until I get my inventory in-check, under control, I’m not overwhelmed, and I’ve got a good handle on the books. Well, as best as a used bookstore lady can get. And the photo shown? Know that this is the unit that was cleaned out. Phew!
One of the best things is going through boxes of books to see what gems are making their way into the store. Like this little book. It isn’t in perfect shape but it’s awesome. Do you agree?
“Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please don’t abandon the book. There is nothing in our material world more beautiful than the book.” – Patti Smith, acceptance speech, National Book Award 2010 (Nonfiction), November 17, 2010.
Otter Creek Used Books has been busy. Busy with customers, busy with boxes of used books. Daily. Frankly, so busy that I haven’t even thought of the blog until last night when #3 reminded me he hadn’t seen anything new since April. Wow, how time goes by. And here it is July. Well…
I’ve always felt my priority is to keep the inventory as fresh as I can make it. As soon as a box comes in I try to go through the books and get them up on the shelves. They aren’t going to sell sitting in a box. Or in a storage unit. Confession time! Yes, I have storage units. Isn’t that crazy? I think so. So I’ve stopped. I’ve stopped buying because I just do not want to be one of those crazy used bookstore people who keep buying books and running out of shelving with books all dangerously piled high and storage units have to be rented. So feverishly I work to get those books out of their boxes. Only thing, I can do the work. I can unbox books and shelf them. I can grab a box from storage and empty it fairly quickly but thing is books are not flying out of here fast enough for me. So I’m faced with a dilemma. People – not always customers – come in or call daily ready to sell their books or looking for store credit. Library and church sales are plenty. It tells me there are great sources for books but the outlet for my store is limited. My competition isn’t another used bookstore but the internet. How does one compete with books that are selling for pennies? I can only do what I can do which is offer customer service as no one else can. Smile. Be happy. Friendly. A good listener and that’s not hard because I’ve got some incredible well-read customers. We have some wild conversations. And I love being in the store so that’s easy.
Have quality product. I do my best to scour books to get those that you’d expect to find in a used bookstore. Modern reads to an obscure book. I think I fairly succeed. That means always searching.
I don’t really know how my store is viewed. What the reputation is. Frankly, I don’t worry about it. I enjoy the store. To me, it’s the kind of store I’d want to look around. I wish it was bigger. I just edit the books more so I can offer quality rather than quantity.
So a sale! Yes, that’s correct. Starting Monday, July 11 though Saturday, July 16 we will be having a 50% off books sale! So get in here and help me make some room on the shelves. I’ve got bulging storage units.
To my mind there is nothing so beautiful or so provocative as a secondhand book store…To me it is astonishing and miraculous to think that any one of us can poke among the stalls for something to read overnight–and that this something may be the sum of a lifetime of sweat, tears, and genius that some poor, struggling, blessed fellow expended trying to teach us the truth. – Lionel Barrymore
You see, bookshops are dreams built of wood and paper. They are time travel and escape and knowledge and power. They are, simply put, the best of places. – Jen Campbell, The Bookshop Book
The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
– Robert Frost, Two Tramps in Mud Time
The door is flung open to let in fresh air. Sure it may be a bit chilly inside the store but it’s April! Haven’t we been patiently waiting for warmer days?
Hannah and I have been busy trying to keep up with the boxes of new arrivals that come in just about daily. A never-ending piece of a used bookstore life. As it should be, right? Boxes of Vermont history books, particularly town histories. Beekeeping. Modern children’s books. Miscellaneous fiction. WWI and WWII. Homesteading. Flower essence and flower gardening. And various others have made their way into the store and getting up on the shelves.
This is what’s been going on:
Need I say more?
Except it sure is a lot of fun!
Here we are again. February.
“Even though February was the shortest month of the year, sometimes it seemed like the longest,” J.D. Robb. And there is, “When God was making the months I think February was a mistake, like a burp. There it was, small, dark, and prickly. It had absolutely no redeeming qualities,” Shannon Wiersbitzky, WHAT FLOWERS REMEMBER. And how about from Alice McDermott, “The day and time itself: late afternoon in early February, was there a moment of the year better suited for despair?”
February, February…I just never know what to do with you. So with that there will be 50% sale February 15-27, 2016. I-Hate-February sale.
A side note: a customer called to wish me Happy February. “Just try and make the best of it,” she said. She gets me.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!
-Barbara & Hannah
Here it is the middle of November! Next week Thanksgiving. Hard to believe. Seems like the year is whizzing by.
I thought I’d post my holiday schedule. I will be closed Thanksgiving Day. My daughter and son-in-law will be cooking up the feast this year. So this used bookstore lady will be putting her feet up with grandsons crawling all over her. I will offer to help clean up but I know they’ll shoo me out of the kitchen so I’ll play with the 3 1/2 year old and 11 month old some more. When I return home I know I’ll be so worn out I’ll have to put my feet up again but this time sit with a cup of tea and a good read and enjoy quiet time.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving marks nine years that I’ve owned the store. 9 years! So that day I’ll be hosting a 50% off sale. I know! An exciting day all the way around. Buying books is what keeps the store alive. It’s also Small Business Saturday which the store is participating in. Free SMS cloth bags to the first ten shoppers.
Starting Sunday, November 29 the store will be open 11-3 pm and will be open each Sunday through December with those same hours. Obviously I will be closed on Christmas Day as well as New Year’s Day. Christmas and New Year’s Eve I will close around 3pm or last customer.
For 2016 I am going to try something I haven’t tried before. I am going to be closed on Mondays, January-March. I’m doing that for the all important “me” time. I have worked six days a week for the past nine years. During foliage and over the Christmas holidays I work a full week. I’m going to cherish having two days off in a row for those months. Just think of all the mischief I can get myself in.
If you have been in lately you have seen full boxes coming in and empty boxes going to recycling. It’s been craziness in here. A good crazy. New used books getting shelved every day. My five-day vacation yielded a number of books that have already made their way up on the shelves – history, farming, Vermontica and then some.
Here’s OCUB holiday calendar:
- Nov 26 – Thanksgiving, closed
- Nov 28 – 50% off 9 Year Anniversary Sale & Small Business Saturday
- Nov 29 – Open 11-2pm and each Sunday throughout December
- Dec 10 – Stag & Doe Night . Open until 8 pm
- Dec 24 – Open 10-3pm or last customer
- Dec 25 – Christmas Day closed. Merry Christmas!
- Dec 31 – Open 10-3pm or last customer
- Jan 1 – New Year’s Day closed
- Jan 4 – closed and closed each Monday through March 28
“- “Women should all move to Amazonia, or at least vacation there four times a year.”
– “It’s the girl world in my head, where I go when I’m annoyed with Carter, or just men in general. There are five shoe stores per capita, nothing has any calories, and all the books and movies end happy ever after.”
– “I like Amazonia. When do we leave?”
~ Nora Roberts
“I said, I prefer the ocean when it’s gray. Or not really gray. A pale, in-between color. It reminds me of waiting for something good to happen.”
~ Lauren Oliver, Delirium
“Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”
~ Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now
What that all means is I’m taking a few days and heading south – to the NH/ME shoreline – to clear my head of book dust, read a few a them, eat some buttery seafood, and watch the waves pound the rocky shore. Even put my toes into the icy Atlantic.
2014 Road Trip
OCUB will be closed Mon-Fri, November 2-6. I’ll be back open on Saturday but at 10 a.m. (regular advertised store hours) since the Farmers Market will be heading to their winter quarters at Mary Hogan Elementary School.
A customer asked me what I am bringing to read. I’m going to finish Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon. Also finish Book Row: An Anecdotal and Pictorial History of the Antiquarian Book Trade by Marvin Mondlin and Roy Meador. Two to start: Michael Gruber’s The Book of Air and Shadows and The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. But you know, I’m going to pick up more books along the way to and from NH/ME as we stop in to say “Hi!” to some favorite book dealers. More than likely those will be the ones I’ll want to start in with.
Have a great week!