“You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain” – Miyamoto Musashi, A Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy.
Or to a used bookstore. More specifically, Otter Creek Used Books. OCUB.
This post is actually in response to a customer who had never been to the store before who stated there is no signage to get people to OCUB. She was very frustrated and well, wasn’t being nice about it. My response (stated in my head), there are signs. And Google Maps. And a good used book hunter knows it’s all about the hunt. Such is finding a used bookstore. Customers are always (not) right. But customers are to always (always!) be respected.
It can be intimidating to get around in the MarbleWorks. People do tend to get turned around and think they know where something is only to discover it isn’t where they thought. Businesses look out for one another and assist those wanderers.
Above is one of several signposts found within the grounds of the MarbleWorks.
The windows as seen below have been boarded up and now used as blackboards. They have become signage for OCUB.
And outside of Noonies Deli hangs a poster promoting the store with map in the MW post office window space.
“What’s meant to be will always find a way” – Trisha Yearwood.
“What a blessing it is to love books.” – Elizabeth von Arnim, The Solitary Summer
Oh, I cannot imagine a life without books. A pile of books beside my bed. A book (or two) in my bag. A home without a library or at least stacks of books. I cannot image lacking the excitement of seeing a bookshelf, a bookstore, a library.
The best part of owning a used bookstore is to see the books as they come into the store. And to visit a private home library to select books for the bookstore. One cannot help to connect with that reader. Some libraries never leave me and I repeatedly thank them for selecting me to enter their home. An honor.
Eight years – 8 years! – I made the decision to move this bookstore from the dark, windowless basement on Main Street (no one really wants to move from Main Street). I wanted to be proactive for the upcoming work that was to begin on the train tracks next to the store. For my business to be established before the work began. Little did I know that it would take so long. I can’t help but think of the lost income the store went through after the move. I seriously I thought I’d close the door several times but I and my family persevered, amazing customers never gave up on us and here we are eight years later. Historic MarbleWorks. Off Main Street and sharing the area with an amazing group of businesses.
For those of you who are familiar with the history of the store, you all know it means time for a sale. A 50% sale honoring the decision to move. I don’t look back. Well, except for the window facing Main Street. It was large and fun to decorate. I loved the first floor entrance and the flight down the stairs. But I love it here more. The nooks and crannies.
So Friday and Saturday – June 28 and 29 – stop in to enjoy the savings and see all the new arrivals. And believe me, there are many new arrivals. It’s been crazy in here. Shelves being rearranged…boxes to be emptied…
“Being a lover of books has its perks. There’s always a story waiting to be read. A hero to fall in love with. A heroine to adore.” – J. Daniels, When I Fall
As I am writing this I am remembering that last I was outside, a mire ten minutes ago, the sun was shining in the blue sky. My fingers are crossed that it will be such a day when I close the store. I’ve put sale books outside – primarily cookbooks and some fiction – hardcovers $1 and paperbacks 50 cents. I just don’t fully trust Mother Nature these days. A good day of sun and drying out would be just fine with me.
Our surprise 50% sale was helpful. A great number boxes, bags and armloads went out the door. Unfortunately 😉 more have been brought in to take their places. Whining in a used bookstore is frowned upon because used bookstores are suppose to be full of books. And this one is.
I ventured around the state several days this week and last. Picked up many boxes of books. Some made their way into the store. Unfortunately many made it into my parlour. Books on Russia, Vietnam and WWII, as well as the Korean War and others. Philosophy, classics and general history. Mysteries, too. As well as many miscellaneous. They are slowly going up and slowly coming into the store from my house.
“This is a place where books are treasured – books that hold the sweetly magical smell of history; books that crackle when you open them and sigh when you close them; books that weigh heavy in your hands, not just your heart.” – Cassia Leo, Black Box
Things were starting to get back to normal around the store. I had my vacation. Got to venture away from the routine of being a used bookstore owner. Then I got hit with another timewith the flu and Hannah some minor health issues. We have had to close the store early or even to close it for the day so we could heal, meet with doctors and the like.
In spite, boxes and bags are arriving daily. Even when Hannah or I give that exasperated look of, “Books? You have books for us?” as we peer over the overflowing boxes surrounding us. But of course it’s okay. Used bookstores are supposed to be filled to the rafters with piles of books and boxes scattered about, right? Yep! So even if we give a look of ‘deer in the headlights’ that’s just our first reaction and then we are good to go. Bring them in. Heck, we’ll even help you.
After awhile a used bookstore looks, well, like a used bookstore out of control. We are so overflowing that we decided to make an executive decision! For sometime we’ll be having a sale. Yes, a 50% off sale. So please, please, please come in and help us out! By buying books. Unfortunately for a bit of time no books will be accepted – none for store credit, not to buy, possibly for donation. At our discretion. Just until we get a better handle on our inventory, and boxes, piles, and our sanity.
“Don’t apologise to this author for buying books second hand, or getting them from bookcrossing or borrowing a friend’s copy. What’s important to me is that people read the books and enjoy them, and that, at some point in there, the book was bought by someone. And that people who like things, tell other people. The most important thing is that people read…” – Neil Gaiman
“I can’t imagine a home without an overflow of books. The point of books is to have way too many but to always feel you never have enough, or the right one at the right moment, but then sometimes to find you’d longed to fall asleep reading the Aspern Papers, and there it is.” – Louise Erdrich, Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country
“It was a year for the ages, like 79, like 1346, to name just a few. Forget the scythe, Goddamn it, I needed a broom or a mop. And I needed a vacation. ” – Markus Zusak, The Book Thief (one of my favs!)
Yes, it’s that time of the year for me: vacation. Whether I need it or not. How could I want a vacation when I own a used bookstore? Isn’t every day like a vacation when you get to go to your own used bookstore? Well, yes. So how about this? I just need to clean out the cobwebs of my mind. Breath in some ocean air. Walk a couple of beaches. Hear some awesome music. Check up on some ancestors. See the sun from a different angle. And read over a great cup of coffee or steaming hot tea with a generous gob of honey. And enjoy the best dinner ever!
A shout-out of thanks to Hannah, Greyson and Lincoln for holding down the store while I’m gone. The hours will be different for the next two weeks as it’s built around Hannah’s schedule. Here are the hours:
March 13-30, 2019 Schedule:
Mon 10-5 Tues Closed Wed 10-2:30 Thurs 10-2:30 Fri 10-2:30 Sat 10-5
And as you read this, please send your vibes to Stevie Nicks to sing “Sara” at an upcoming show. It’s not on their playlist but together we can get it to happen. Thank you!
See you in April!
“Another page turns on the calendar, April now, not March.” – Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls
l have no idea how my grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s photos made their way into the store. I’d like to think that I’m doing something they are proud of. Not saying my other female relatives aren’t. It’s just only these two photos appeared one day. A wonder.
“The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. ” – Audrey Hepburn
“March came in that winter like the meekest and mildest of lambs, bringing days that were crisp and golden and tingling, each followed by a frosty pink twilight which gradually lost itself in an elfland of moonshine.” – L. M. Montgomery
Today is a lamb of a day. A perfect March day. Our reward for making it through the horrible month of February. But we did it! And it didn’t take as much chocolate as I was expecting.
The I Hate February sale went very well. It was extended for a couple of days – March 1 and 2. I mean, how could we not? To finish out the week. Thank you all for coming into the store and enjoying the fun. Great to see all those who plan their trips to Middlebury to stop in and fill up arms, bags and boxes.
And here it is March. March is a happy month for me. For one thing it’s my birthday month. Now you can understand as a little girl why I didn’t like February. It was in the way! And the month just brought bad stuff to me. Of all months!
March also brings me two weeks off. Last year I rewarded myself after twelve years of owning this store to a two-week vacation and I crossed off a number of bucket list items: Crossing the Mississippi, U.S. Grant sites and other historical sites. It made such an impact on me. I forgot what vacations can do to one’s outlook. I’m going again this year. Things haven’t been finalized but the store’s hours will be different.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
I remember thinking I wanted to die rather than live through another February day of grayness; I didn’t tell anyone because I knew it wasn’t normal. And normal was all I ever wanted to be. – Sharon E Rainey, Making a Pearl from the Grit of Life
February, month of despair, with a skewered heart in the centre.― Margaret Atwood
Yes, here it is again. For some reason February keeps showing up. I have no idea why it even has to appear on a calendar. I could accept a longer January. Even a longer March. Just erase February from everything.
How do I get through? Chocolate. And a good fat used book to escape in. Until I can turn the page to the wonderful month of March.
So I offer up as I have for the past few years a 50% sale for the last half of the month. As Ben states, “Have fun with your sales!” That is Ben, of The County Bookshop, in Plainfield – so well worth the drive. And he is right. The sale helps me through and it is a lot of fun. Customers get great deals and inventory flies out the door. And the best thing is that everyone is in a great mood. It all makes the saddest month of the year almost bearable.
Yes, all books are half price. 50% off. Each and every book. February 15-28. Come by! And buy! 🙂
The most serious charge which can be brought against New England is not Puritanism but February. ― Joseph Wood Krutch
I recently reorganized the ‘main’ window (near my desk). Needing Spring and flowers, and all that is warm and sunny, which we are not currently having. Gardening. It is the time when mailboxes are full of gardening and seed catalogs. At least I believe they are. I don’t receive any. I prefer to actually go into the stores to pick out my seeds and gardening supplies. And I’m not one to really plan out my vegetable garden. I really only want tomatoes, basil, parsley, dill, kale, onions and the like. Easy to grow. Forgiving. When I was a stay-at-home mother I did plan and weeded my gardens. Today…not so much. Fortunately my flower gardens are free to do what they want. I actually have one garden that surprises me every year with something new. One year everything was white – Roses to Daisys. Another year it was full of Black Eyed Susans. The Oriental Poppies and Peonies do return year after year to which I am grateful. To think there was actually a time where you couldn’t find a weed anywhere in my gardens. Those were the days.
As you probably have figured out since I’ve owned the store I enjoy attaching a literary quote to just about everything I do. Facebook, Instagrams, and the website. Even outdoors I have a large framed chalkboard sign where I post a quote. I started having outdoor quotes which I happened upon an easel I picked up alongside the road. Free. Those days I worked so hard to let people know that someone new owned OCUB and there were many positive changes added: inventory, color (we were located in a blah basement), book displays, etc. to literary quotes on the outside easel.
Today I was looking for a quote to include within the window display which also highlights Valentine’s Day, and I found quite a few delightful quotes about books, reading and gardening. I couldn’t choose one so I chose them all and have posted them below. I hope you like them as well.
Looking forward to Spring!
“A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor, a multitude of counselors.” – Charles Baudelaire
“Reading can be a road to freedom or a key to a secret garden, which, if tended, will transform all of life.” – Katherine Paterson
“ Your mind is not a cage. It’s a garden. And it requires cultivating.” – Libba Bray, A Great and Terrible Beauty
“ She did not need much, wanted very little. A kind word, sincerity, fresh air, clean water, a garden, kisses, books to read, sheltering arms, a cosy bed, and to love and be loved in return.” – Starr Neely Blade
“May I a small house and large garden have; And a few friends, And many books, both true.” -Abraham Cowley
“A book should be a garden that fits in the hands. Word-petals of color. Stems of strength. Roots of truth. Turn a page and turn the seasons. Read the sentence and enjoy the roses. ” – Max Lucado
“It’s the same thing when I’m gardening or reading. It’s just me and what I’m doing, or the world I’m reading, and nothing else.” – Jennifer L. Armentrout, Onyx
“For this quiet, unprepossessing, passive man who has no garden in front of his subsidised flat, books are like flowers. He loves to line them up on the shelf in multicoloured rows: he watches over each of them with an old-fashioned gardener’s delight, holds them like fragile objects in his thin, bloodless hands.” – Stefan Zweig, The Post-Office Girl
“Miss Moore speaks slowly, deliberately. “I know because I read.” She pulls back and stands, hands on hips, offering us a challenge. “May I suggest that you all read? And often. Believe me, it’s nice to have something to talk about other than the weather and the Queen’s health. Your mind is not a cage. It’s a garden. And it requires cultivating.” – Libba Bray, A Great and Terrible Beauty
“There is something divine, something artistic, and something supreme in reading a book in a peaceful garden.” – Mehmet Murat Idan
Being totally upfront, WordPress changed their inputting format and it’s confusing. The last entry was a mess but I corrected it. I think.
The books – the generous friends who met me without suspicion – the merciful masters who never used me ill! – Wilkie Collins, Armadale.
Today I want to reflect on my owning a used bookstore for the past twelve years.
I’ll never forget the afternoon when I was having ‘one of those days’ at my last job. One that I loved but I knew I was getting to the end of it. Frustrated that the project I was working on wasn’t coming out to my expectations. I don’t remember what I was working on – a publication? webpage? article? Or something entirely different. I only knew I had to clear my head and take a break. Usually I’d grab the camera, take a walk to the residential part of Middlebury to get away from everything. But on this particular day I chose the downtown area. Even as I headed in that direction I thought it was very unlike me but forward I went. There outside of the old Lazarus Building on Main Street was a sign declaring “Used Bookstore for sale. Inquire within.” I walked through the door, down the stairs to the gentleman behind the desk and asked him how much. Ran back to my desk, called my husband and declared that we are buying a used bookstore. Went to the bank, drew up a check and went back to the bookstore with check in hand and well, the rest is history. Here I am. Twelve years later owning a used bookstore and happy as all can be.
I’m asked how I got into the business. Frankly I think it was fate. I have no history of true literature, or retail. I grew up reading a lot of Reader Digest monthly books. Walking or hopping on my bike to the Ilsley Library. I was constantly directed to the children’s section of the library. The adult books were not for me. But they were. I had to convince one librarian that I could read Carl Sandburg’s Lincoln book. Of course I was quizzed when I returned it. She declared I could read it and therefore was allowed to wander in the adult section. Even to check out an adult book. If appropriate.
I was a young adult when I discovered used bookstores. What a wonder! I loved that others had read the book but in a used bookstore the books had been owned by someone else. How special it made them! From then on, wherever I went I had to find a used bookstore.
One year my husband, Rusty, had eye surgery and looking for entertainment during the long winter I suggested looking for used bookstores. With the Vermont Antiquarian Booksellers Association (VABA) brochure & map in hand we headed out to discover what we could. Sometimes the shop would be unexpectedly closed, some surprised for the visitation, but all-in-all it was one of my best winters. Again, never in my wildest dreams. VABA’s spring book sales? I had to be first in. Very nerdy but I just had to be. Now I’m a VABA member. And I found that used bookstore owners are the coolest. I hope that someday I can be on their level of coolness.
Now that I’ve had the shop for all these years I can’t imagine not owning it. I can’t imagine piling books, covering dust jackets, cleaning books, looking into boxes of books and picking out a few knowing that they had to come into the store. It is a way of life that I have to be a part of. For always.
The people! I understand that some I will never meet again but there are others I know we are bonded for life. Over a sale of a book. I recognize folks who visit the area for the summer. When I shop in town I want to run up to customers to ask how they liked the book. But I don’t. I try to be a cool used bookstore lady. I love connecting to people who come in. I want to share. I want people to read. I don’t care if they just wander in and wander out. At least they came in and offered company on the quiet days.
I enjoy sale days. Like today. Great that many are recognizing when sales are held. Generally over an anniversary of some kind. And then there’s February!
So, dear reader of this blog. Thank you. Thank you if you have been into the store. Thank you for everything. I truly appreciate all you have brought to the store and to me. Here’s to whatever the future holds.
I feel free and strong. If I were not a reader of books I could not feel this way. Whatever may happen to me, thank God that I can read, that I have truly touched the minds of other men. – Walter Tevis, Mockingbird