In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. – Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind
It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive. – James Baldwin
Owning a used bookstore is everything you’d think it would be. And then some! I say and write that all the time. It is so amazing. Because, if you think of it, all these books, are mine. I thought of that one day. I own each and everyone of these books. If I were to close up the store tomorrow I get to choose which books are coming home with me.
Fortunately I don’t think that way. I am excited to be the holder of books until the rightful owner comes along. Sometimes the customer finds the book they want. Sometimes it is the book who finds the customer. Have you ever experienced walking into a bookstore and all of a sudden spy the book that looks so interesting? So delicous that you have to pick it up and devour it? It could be the title. The cover. The dust jacket. But something says to you, “Read me!” I hear so many examples of that and it warms my heart.
Shopping in a used bookstore is a good thing. Owning a used bookstore is a good thing, too.
He calls books freedoms. And homes too. They preserve all the good words that we so seldom use. Leniency. Kindness. Contradiction. Forbearance. – Nina George, The Little Paris Bookshop
What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain. – Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now
Change is good. I’ve always told myself. And I still believe it. Good. Bad. If it’s bad, it’ll eventually turn into good.
So what are the changes? First, I’ve broken down and started using a cane. Ok. I didn’t really break down. The doctor ordered me. So I hobbled to the Medicine Chest and left with a blue cane that is now to be my best friend. And I’ve started a program to get my leg healed correctly. There’s a lot of hiking I need to do this summer. So the cane thing will be short lived.
Another change is Carrie. Carrie will be coming in to help me out. Huge! It’s hard to maneuver with a cane and an armload of books. If you’ve been in the store recently you will understand this. There are so many boxes that need to be sorted, cleaned, priced and ultimately shelved. Regular sweeping has been neglected as well as dusting. So I cried UNCLE and Carrie responded. Actually she is a good friend of Hannah so she’s part family. And she has a young son who might join her some days to add to the fun.
Currenty the store is showing local artist, Alice Eckles. I’ll have more information on her later. She just recently hung pieces throughout the store found on ends of bookcases to tucked into empty wall spaces. Perfect timing! Perfect uplift.
Cheer up, Crips, and keep smiling. That’s the thing to do. If you go through life with a smile on your face, you’ll be amazed how many people will come up to you and say ‘What the hell are you grinning about? What’s so funny?’ Make you a lot of new friends. – P.G. Wodehouse.
Well, here it is April. The last few months have gone by somewhat fast for me. During March I had several weeks off. A staycation though it wasn’t suppose to be. It was to be a wandering trip but well, things happen so it was a stay at home time. David Mumford, the remarkable one that he is, manned the store, with Hannah covering Saturdays. While at home I did nurse my leg and relaxed. Got a lot of reading in. And I did manage to scout out some books, bookends and other used bookstore fun stuff.
I’m back in the store and I believe that the books have mulitpled while I was gone. I returned a couple of weeks ago and during this time have been accepting books, cleaning, sorting and shelving. The endless task which I thoroughly enjoy. But the store is certainly exploding. A lot of fiction, Vermont, Civil War, music, biography, poetry, and everything in between. It never gets old.
I’ve been trying to get myself to keep the store open until 5pm but with my leg situation by the time 4pm comes around my leg is screaming out and it zaps my energy so I need to leave, go home and elevate it. I try to not walk around the store as much but yet, the books aren’t jumping to shelf themselves. So I plot out my steps, load my arms, and make a round of shelving. If you look around my desk you’ll see stacks of books ready to go but I wait until I’m generally alone in the store so I won’t make anyone uncomfortable. In a couple of weeks I’ll find out more regarding my leg. Until then I thank customers for being patient with me. It’s been a long haul but my fingers are crossed it’ll be healed soon.
“Standing there, staring at the long shelves crammed with books, I felt myself relax and was suddenly at peace.” – Helene Hanff, Q’s Legacy: A Delightful Account of a Lifelong Love Affair with Books
So that means it’s time for the I HATE FEBRUARY 50% SALE! All books half off. 50%. Yes, all books. And yes, I hate February and will always hate the month.
Don’t bother handing me chocolate, flowers or any of that nonsense because I do not like February and there is no changing it. And I understand February is the shortest month. When you hate it as much as I do it becomes the longest month. If that doesn’t sound reasonable to you well, that is how much I don’t like February.
So let’s get through this month together. I’ll provide the half-off books, and chocolate. Maybe I’ll spring for flowers for the desk too. I certainly could use some cheering up.
“Why, what’s the matter, That you have such a February face, So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?” – Shakespeare
Trying to figure out what to write. There is so much to be grateful for and so much troubling. 2020 wasn’t all that crazy in the long run. I’m closing out the year not so badly. Back in April I wasn’t sure if the store would still be open. But it is. Here I am. I have been working on this page since mid-December. Every time I sit down at my desk to finish it I find I just don’t want to type. I don’t want to express my thoughts because, frankly, I don’t have any. Crazy. I know. I don’t know what to think about this coming year. So I’m taking it day by day and will just let it be.
It’s been nice having people in. Even those who just wander in, walk around and thank me for the opportunity to connect with books. A form of some normacy. Actually they are the ones who fuel me. I recognize the store offers a comfort to those who appreciate books. Particularly, used books and their familiarity.
I am currently not buying books. Books that have come in are from very generous customers who donate them. I do not know what the future will hold. Will there be another manatory retail shutdown? I went into the first one with money set aside. I am prepared if we have to again. I won’t start to buy until I am confident the economy will bounce back. I feel my store is on edge to stay open or close entirely. I’d like to write that closing isn’t an option but then again…
I follow a business model that I have created over the fourteen years owning OCUB. It isn’t the one I orginally planned. I’ve adapted it numerous times. I like the model I currently have. I am a brick and mortar shop. My inventory can be seen inside my door. You have to come in to see what my shelves hold. I liken it to what used bookstores use to be. You know. Before the internet. Before Amazon came along and mucked up searching for books. Frankly I feel, they ruined the whole used book world. It’s all about the hunt. Hunting online is a form of cheating, right? Would OCUB be more financially secure if I sold online? Sure. Not doing so is my niche. Come inside. See what there is.
I do have news! I will be closed for three weeks in February/March. Not sure of the dates yet. I’ve missed out on little excursions to renew my soul.
Another piece of news is that this will no longer be a blog. I just can’t handle it anymore. Maybe I’ll get it back but I don’t think so. I’m going to use this page as I do for Facebook and Instagram. I’ll feature a book or two from my shelves. That takes the pressure off me. You’d be surprised how many drafts I have started but never finished. Owning a used bookstore is suppose to be fun and no pressure. Remove the pressure! Done! Anyways this blog was suppose to be a holder until I could afford to buy a database program. Guess that didn’t happen.
Thank you! Now, here’s to 2021 and well, whatever happens, we have used books.
What a crazy year 2020 has been. I started it so happy. The store had made it. I was so confident final goals would be met. Then BAM! Everything dropped out. What the hell was going to happen to the store? The books?
I hung in. Every single day. I hung in. Stevie Nicks, John Mellencamp. Rearranging shelves. Customers who have become friends checking in on me. Knocking on the door. Calling me. Texting and emails. Leaving bags of books ordered outside for pick-ups and waving through the windows. Mailing boxes across the country and even to a few Vermont towns. All. All helped me get through a tough time for this used bookstore lady all alone in the shop. Heat off. Lights off. Saving money. Heading out to the car to warm up and taking a drive off the beaten path to connect to something. Nature. The world. Vermont. My familiar.
When the Governor gave retail the okay to reopen I did. I did delay a bit because I had boxes, ladders, stacks of books scattered around. I organized somewhat and unlocked and propped the door open to show the world OCUB was open and ready to do business.
Social distancing. I’m not sure those who don’t shop in used bookstores understand but that’s what us used bookstore people do best. We like people. But around books we want to be alone. Particularly in a shop.
The other thing I’ve been dealing with, all during this, is a torn ligament in my leg and the road to healing has been a long one.
So all-in-all, I’m hanging in. The store is hanging in. Received a Grant from the government and a small loan so I was able to pay rent. I also received a generous grant from the National Bank of Middlebury. That has given me the confidence to continue on and indeed I am.
On Saturday, Novembr 28 I will have owned OCUB for 14 years! It’ll be a quiet celebration but it will involve cookies from Sweet E’s, an up and coming bakeshop in Middlebury. Mmmm, cookies! Books!
“Books are everywhere; and always the same sense of adventure fills us. Second-hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack. Besides, in this random miscellaneous company we may rub against some complete stranger who will, with luck, turn into the best friend we have in the world.” – Virginia Woolf, Street Haunting
I know people coming to this site are expecting to see a database showing the used books offered for sale. My inventory. Unfortunately, you won’t. I like to consider myself as owner of an old fashioned used bookstore. That means you have to come into OCUB to see what’s for sale. What’s on the shelves. Note, I do have some online and they can be found on AbeBooks.com. This site has ended up being a blog of random thoughts of being a used bookstore lady. Me. When I make time for it.
My first duty when I purchased the store – way back in 2006 – was to turn it around. Inventory to profit. So the emphasis was to clean-up the stock, and change things around. After owning the store coming up to 14 years, it’s still the mission. Boxes come in with ‘new’ books weekly if not daily and then my job is to clean them, sort them, price them, and shelf. CSPS. I’d love to take a day to just sit back, wait on customers and get a few pages in but I’m always so compelled to tackle the boxes and books. Get them up on a shelf. Find room. Look for creative ways to display them. A cycle I still follow.
I have stacks of books ready to have their jackets covered. So many, Floors to be swept and moped. Shelves to be dusted. Inventory to be reexamined, moved around. Finally found a spot for books on Germany. They got bumped to make more room for Spain. England! Churchill! Topics that have exploded. It’s the ebb and flow of a used bookstore.
Today will be a day to start preparing to decorate the windows for the upcoming holidays. I cannot wait. Lights, tinsel, ornaments. Just what my soul needs right now. I, for one, am looking forward to 2021. For nothing other than the restart of another year. I’m ready to put 2020 behind me. And I was so excited about 2020. Coming out of a strong year of sales in 2019. January and February equally strong. 2020 was to be a very good year for OCUB. Well, I’m still here so that’s a great sign. And a great way to leave 2020 behind me. So off to find those decorations and start in. And start covering dust jackets.
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” – Charles W. Eliot
“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” – Neil Gaiman
Books and doors are the same thing. You open them, and you go through into another world. – Jeannette Winterson
OCUB is running steady in this uneasy time we’re currently going through. In spite of being closed for several months. In spite of all that’s going on up on Main Street. The store is hanging in. I’m so appreciative of all the customers – new to the store, and regulars. Those who have had to navigate around town and not given up in their search to find OCUB.
The support I have been feeling is overwhelming. Including the store being closed an extra day (Sunday & Monday) as well as my closing at 4 pm rather than the usual 5 pm.
I also appreciate the response from those who ask me about buying books. Unfortunately at this time I will not be buying. Well, except for the book scouts who watch out for me and the store. Our relationship is long standing. As for store credit, I have suspended that as well for a time being. If you do have credit do feel free to use it starting now. Of course, if you have college books that program is still available.
I’ve been featuring books for sale on Facebook and Instagram (otterbooks). If you don’t follow the store on either of those sites you should. I have a lot of fun with it.
Time is a river…and books are boats. Many volumes start down that stream, only to be wrecked and lost beyond recall in its sands. Only a few, a very few, endure the testings of time and live to bless the ages following. – R.W. and Rev. Joseph Fort Newton, The Lost Symbol.