“The bookstore…had its own special aroma, the incomparable and unforgettable scent of books and dust, paper and ink, type and binding, the dazzling anticipation and excitement of seekers after books.” – Marvin Mondlin & Roy Meador, Book Row.
I reopened Tuesday, May 26. Have to say, the store is so much better with lights on. They were off as well as the heat when I came to reorganize. I was excited when the GMP bill came. The lowest ever! And warmer weather arriving.
During the retail shutdown I discovered freedom. Free time. I could come and go as I wanted. Some days to warm up I’d hop in the car and go for a ride to clear my head and get a perspective of things. I can’t remember when I had such alone time. I liked it.
I don’t know the future of the store. If it’ll be able to stay open. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve turned it around twice. When I bought it. When I moved it. I honestly question if I have it within me to do it again. The good thing, I realized, if I can’t keep the store running it isn’t a reflection on me or mismanagement.
On a recent VABA Zoom call I was able to connect to other Vermont used bookstore owners. Encouragement, laughter, sighing, honesty but mostly moral support was had. None of us quite know what will become of our shops. There are changes from days open, hours open, to one going to appointment only. As for OCUB I will now be closed Sundays and Mondays. And possibly closing at 4pm some days.
Thank you to all who called, emailed, walked in to check on me, order books as well as gift certificates, asked for a stack of books to be brought outside to venture through. It was encouraging and helped me get through in ways you’ll never know.
That’s how I feel. What happened to April? I liked April. This year with all the craziness I feel I was lost and cheated out of something.
Taken by a customer during the start of our crazy time and in the middle of reorganizing the store. Honored by the support I’ve received during this down time. Note: Stevie Nicks is playing on my phone keeping me motivated.
Most days I have been coming into the store to clean out and organize the storage area. Heat off. Lights off. Music blaring as loud as I dare.
Recently I participated in a county-wide survey pertaining to what businesses need during this shutdown period. I wrote my responses from my used bookstore heart. One answer I gave surprised me which was I couldn’t continue as an island. A store unto itself. That’s really not who I am but that’s how I operated my shop. Head down and keep moving forward.
I, as everyone else, have no idea what the future will hold. I’m anxious to reopen as other retail businesses are. I currently have a mountain of work to do because I have been emptying out boxes and shuffling around inventory. Losing topics. Expanding others. I have so much to accomplish before I dare to allow people in. Ladders in aisles to piles and boxes scattered all about.
I only know I am moving forward. I might squeak by for a while but I’ve done that before. New inventory came in recently. A clear sign to keep going.
“I’ve learned a lot this year.. I learned that things don’t always turn out the way you planned, or the way you think they should. And I’ve learned that there are things that go wrong that don’t always get fixed or get put back together the way they were before. I’ve learned that some broken things stay broken, and I’ve learned that you can get through bad times and keep looking for better ones, as long as you have people who love you.” – Jennifer Weiner, Good in Bed.
I hate this feeling. Like I’m here, but I’m not. Like someone cares. But they don’t. Like I belong somewhere else, anywhere but here, and escape lies just past that snowy window, cool and crisp as the February air. – Ellen Hopkins, Crank
I am not a graceful person. I am not a Sunday morning or a Friday sunset. I am a Tuesday 2 a.m., gunshots muffled by a few city blocks, I am a broken window during February. – Anna Peters
Seriously, February is the worse month of the year for me. Years ago, one day sitting in the store and just tired of grumbling, I decided I had to turn my mood around. One of my used bookstore heroes had told me that having a sale was a fun thing to do. For him and his customers. And when he has a sale he goes big. All books are half off. 50% off every book. So I thought, hey, if it works for Ben (The Country Bookshop in Plainfield, VT) then try it. And that’s how the I Hate February Sale began.
I’m armed with chocolate and flowers. And a sale. February just got better.
February is pitiless, and it is boring. That parade of red numerals on its page adds up to zero: birthdays of politicians, a holiday reserved for rodents, what kind of celebrations are those? The only bubble in the flat champagne of February is Valentine’s Day. It was no accident that our ancestors pinned Valentine’s Day on February’s shirt: he or she lucky enough to have a lover in frigid, antsy February has cause for celebration, indeed. – Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
– T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
I’m getting ready to close out the year, 2019 and I have to catch my breath. December is closing out strong. One of the strongest Decembers since I’ve moved the store into the Historic MarbleWorks. My heart is singing from the support that has come from all the customers who have found their way ‘down here’ off of Main Street. Thank you one and all!
“I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to every-body! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!” – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Can you believe it? I’ve owned OCUB for thirteen years! 13! Wow!
Books have always played a part of my life: reading the Book of the Month delivered to our house. I learned of John Steinbeck and a host of other authors. After I read the BOM book I would go to the library and find other titles by the featured authors. Also Reader’s Digest. When I went to college and took the class, Children’s Literature, I was stunned by the books I hadn’t read: Wind in the Willows, A Secret Garden were two that really struck me as not knowing how they could have slipped by me. But I had read Caddie Woodlawn, Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates, and Little Men, so I wasn’t totally deprived. I read Little Women but Little Men was by far my favorite between the two. In Junior High I was introduced to, Anne of Green Gables, and my world stopped. Here was someone just like me! And all the horse books I could lay my hand on. Misty of Chincoteague, was my favorite.
Reading was escape. Learning of new places. Meeting new people. Libraries were my favorite places. I loved checking out a pile of books and walking them home or balancing them on the handlebars of my bike.
Owing a used bookstore is an amazing experience. I am never alone. I’m surrounded by color, titles, words, smells. It is everything you think it would be and then some. Actually so much more but words fail me. And the customers, how can they not be my friends? Most are.
So! Friday and Saturday I will celebrate this great occasion with a 50% sale! As my hero, Ben from Country Bookshop in Plainfield, VT (check the store out!) says, when you have a sale, go big! Make everyone happy! So I take his advice every time with a 50% storewide sale. Stop in!
“I love the way that each book—any book—is its own journey. You open it, and off you go….” – Sharon Creech
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” – Albert Camus
Autumn. It’s here, As sorry as I am that summer is behind us I am looking forward to the fall. The crispness in the air, apples, changing leaves, wood stove warming my house, pile of books and embroidery projects, grabbing old quilts and draping over chairs….all of it. Until February hits and then it is a different story but that’s for later.
I’m actually raising my head here from behind all the boxes and bags that have come into the store. It was a very busy summer! Books stored at my house are slowly making their way in.
A couple of weeks ago a customer told me why he likes coming in to OCUB. He appreciates that I don’t list a lot of books online. My store, to him, is like an old fashioned used bookstore. To see what I have you have to come into the store. Everything is out. No backroom to hide books in. No rules. Looking through boxes is perfectly fine. Poke around. Relax in a chair. Take your time. I am happy with his description.
I accept the store as it is. I’d like it different but frankly, it is just Hannah and I and we are hardly in the store at the same time. So we do as we can. And I’m finally okay with that. Hey! It’s a used bookstore. And there are no rules in this used bookstore other than to enjoy.
“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