“It’ll be all right, my fine fellow,” said the Otter. “I’m coming along with you, and I know every path blindfold; and if there’s a head that needs to be punched, you can confidently rely upon me to punch it.” – Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows.
I was reading my last few posts and what a downer! I need to change it all up. I love owning a used bookstore. To open the door to start each day. A new adventure. Project. Or even take a few moments to read. To open boxes and see the new arrivals. At least those fresh out of storage. Not doing any good hidden away. Give them light! One must be optimistic and that is my general attitude. So…start acting it, Barbara!
There have been changes to the store. Mainly in hours open. And the ending of accepting books for store credit. Please note: if you have store credit, of course, it will be honored. And I thank those who do have credit waiting to use it in order to help the store stay afloat. Rent, taxes, electricity, insurance, etc. still need to be paid. I got through the shutdown because I am a business woman that always kept a small reserve socked away. And thank goodness as that kept me limping along.
I am currently now closed Sundays and Mondays. And I also close at 4pm. Two decisions that have helped me personally in caring for myself. And I love it. It was a hard decision because I’m all about customer relationships but sometimes one’s needs has to be a factor.
I have been bringing in and receiving new inventory every day. So exciting. My book scouts have been contacting me to see where I’m at with buying and have been very supportive. With my amazing loyal customer base I think the store will be okay. I’m ever so optimistic.
“Books can be possessive, can’t they? You’re walking around in a bookstore and a certain one will jump out at you, like it had moved there on its own, just to get your attention. Sometimes what’s inside will change your life, but sometimes you don’t even have to read it. Sometimes it’s a comfort just to have a book around. Many of these books haven’t even had their spines cracked. ‘Why do you buy books you don’t even read?’ our daughter asks us. That’s like asking someone who lives alone why they bought a cat. For company, of course.” – Sarah Addison Allen, The Sugar Queen
“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.
Great news! I now have the ability to sell gift cards through Square on the OCUB Facebook page. Check it out, if so inclined.
Honestly, it has been quite a time for me and the store. I ended 2019 on a strong note with January and February equally strong. I was in the process of readdressing my marketing plan to prepare for an uncertain summer due to the upcoming Main Street construction. I took my books offline to reevaluate what I was offering. I purchased several collections to recharge the shelves. And then BAM! everything was turned upside down and I feel like I got caught unprepared for what was to come. Fortunately I know I wasn’t alone but I have to come up with another plan.
You see, when I purchased the store I had to turn everything around – the physical space, the inventory, the reputation. It was a process that, at the time, was exciting because I knew there was only one direction to go in and that was up. I worked an extra year at my employment to carry the lack of business that store was experiencing. Then I took a huge leap of faith to leave that job and devote my time fully to the store. It took five years but I got there. The store became financially sound. Then I had to look at the future of the location the store was in. I knew from my previous employment that the building was going to eventually come down. And I knew the condition of the train overpass next to the store was in a bad way. The state could condemn it at anytime and that would obviously affect my business. So I decided to be proactive and started contacting landlords of spaces currently available in town. That led me to here, the historic MarbleWorks. That also meant I had to once again put my nose to the grindstone and work to get my business back. I almost didn’t make it but I did. So that was twice I had to turn the business around.
Now I am faced with the very possibility of turning the store around for the third time. Frankly, I don’t know if I have it within me. When we were told to close I stayed away for a few days. Then I would come in to check the mail and the answering machine but I would leave because I just couldn’t deal with whatever was going on with the world. Here it is April 7 and I’m trying my best to address things I’ve wanted to do but couldn’t seem to get to it – change displays, go through shelves with a better eye and weed, clean, and other used bookstore chores. I’m trying to not be discouraged. All I can say is that once we are given the okay to reopen I will have one hell of a sale to try to keep the store going. But honestly, I am going be realistic.
For now, I wish all well. I look forward to reconnecting with everyone real soon.
“To wish to be well is a part of becoming well.” – Seneca
“Dreams are true while they last, and do we not live in dreams?” – Lord Alfred Tennyson
“Time passes. That’s the rule. No matter what happens, no matter how much it might feel like everything in your life has been frozen around one particular moment, time marches on.” – Cynthia Hand, The Last Time We Say Goodbye
In this case it was February. And now it’s March. A big sigh of relief. Thanks to all who stopped by to check out the I Hate February Sale. It proved once a gain to be a lot of fun.
March brings changes to the store. Hannah will now only work Mondays and every other Saturday. She has taken a position at Oxford Company in Cornwall. I’ll miss her and our routine but I’m very happy for her. She’ll now be surrounded with art and the ability to put her college degree to good work. I’ll be in the store Tuesday-Friday with every other Saturday off. Monday’s I still have charge of my grandsons.
Also March presents me with some down time. I’ll be getting away the week of March 23-27. The ocean calls me. Fried clams and the most delicious clam linguine on the planet. I’ve already started my pile of books to bring. Have my coffee houses picked out to put my feet up in and hunker down with a juicy novel. And Thursday evening of that week, author Erik Larson will be speaking of his new release, “The Splendid and the Vile”. Very excited to hear him and to dig into the book as I’m currently reading, “In the Garden of Beasts”.
On the last Sunday of March the Vermont Book, Posters & Ephemera Fair will be held in Burlington at the Hilton Burlington on Battery Street. This fair is sponsored by the Vermont Antiquarian Booksellers Association (VABA) and is the 27th annual. The hours are 10-4 and it is free! I will be there this year as well as many of my used bookstore friends and mentors. For nothing else, it will be great to hang out with them. And to check out their tables and shelves. It’s always a great time!
One more March thing. Look for some store happenings on the 13th. I have owned OCUB for thirteen years and the on the 13th of each month I will host some kind of surprise. Or a sale. Maybe even both! Watch for an announcement on Facebook.
“My father was often impatient during March, waiting for winter to end, the cold to ease, the sun to reappear. March was an unpredictable month, when it was never clear what might happen. Warm days raised hopes until ice and grey skies shut over the town again.” – Tracy Chevalier, Girl with a Pearl Earring
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.