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
She had a kind heart, though that is not of much use when it comes to the matter of self-preservation. – Penelope Fitzgerald, The Bookshop
‘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
I’m back from having a few days off from the world. Cleared my head. Read a few pages. Had my fav dish in the whole world or at least in my part of the world. I live for this meal and I’m never disappointed. I eat it with my eyes closed so I can enjoy each and every mouthful. And then walk it all off! Not a beach but in this case to the local theater to hear author, Lee Child. I have never picked up his books except to shelf but now I have to. What a down-to-earth author. He came across as clever and fun. So I need to look through my stock and see what I have of his and start in.
During this trip I stopped in a number of used bookstores. This trip was different as I cut the number down to just three. I’m a shop owner who sticks to a budget and I met that amount with the three shops. One store is in the middle of closing his physical shop, one recently moved to a smaller and less rent space (his third such move in fifteen years), another has changed its focus and concentrates on only one subject matter. All are trying to survive and live their used bookstore dream. It is certainly a time to readjust one’s business plan. Actually I’ve changed my plan multiple times throughout the years. One has to in this market. I’m in the middle of adapting another change but frankly I’m not sure which way to go or how to handle things.
OCUB has met multiple goals that I set over the years. Many were simple such as keeping it open my first year. The early days were a struggle because no one was coming in. I constantly changed the Main Street window display so those passing by would notice that someone different is running the store. I constantly added inventory. Daily. Something I still do. I had to work an extra year at my previous employment to cover store bills. That was hard because I was leaving a job I loved but it was time to move on. It was a leap of faith to believe the store would start paying for itself. But it did!
We recovered from moving from Main Street – no one wants to leave Main Street! – to the MarbleWorks. It took several years for customers to find the store but they did. We could expand and by rights we should. But it would mean higher costs. I don’t want to make that jump. The store is maxed but yet the size is doable when I’m working alone.
We are hanging in. But soon a decision will need to be made.
Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them. And it’s much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world! – Neil Gaiman
There weren’t any curtains in the windows, and the books that didn’t fit into the bookshelf lay piled on the floor like a bunch of intellectual refugees. – Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart
I didn’t imagine that I would be a used bookstore owner of such a jumble of a store. Piles of books here. Piles there. In boxes. Out of boxes. Piles constantly around my feet. Piles on piles. Boxes piled with piles of books atop. Bought a stool so as to sit up at the counter and it is piled with books.
What are the piles? Piles to be sorted. Piles to be shelved. Piles to be cleaned. Piles to be looked up for pricing. Boxes of books to be sorted. Boxes to be cleaned. Boxes to be looked up and sorted. Piles and boxes.
Am I complaining? Somewhere in there is one. Then I have to remind myself that this is a used bookstore and there are no rules. Have I also mentioned that I get claustrophobic? I’m sure I have. The worse place for cluttering is found in the front room when my desk is. Doesn’t affect anyone but me (and Hannah, of course). Unless you are a customer who wants to look at the piles around me. And that is okay to do.
You see, I always thought my used bookstore would be ‘dignified’. You know, wood shelves full of leather bounds. Dust free. Arranged alphabetically. Rare books under glass protected from dust and fingerprints. Aged atlas hung on walls that aren’t covered in bookshelves. Various works of art around on the walls, tabletops. Vintage and fine antiques mixed. Brass. And a crystal chandelier. Always a crystal chandelier. Oriental rugs. Antique library tables stacked (not piled) with vintage and one-of-a kind finds.
And, this is silly but when I see my vision of this store I see myself as a man wearing a wool jacket with leather patched sleeves, corduroy pants. Of course a hand-knit vest under the jacket. Good sturdy leather tied shoes. And smoking a pipe filled with cherry tobacco. A pot of tea with all the fixings and biscuits always at my ready. Volvo parked outside.
Understand I am a woman. I don’t own a wool jacket. Anymore. Never with patched elbows. I’ve never smoked a pipe. Tea. Why brew it when I have the teahouse right nearby. The Volvo is outside in the parking lot. My outfit is based on my mood since there aren’t rules or standards to live up to. So there’s that. Still, that’s my vision, as strange as it is.
My store is what it is. I love it for what it has become. I’d like it more organized but when it’s just me in the store or Hannah at one time it is hard to maintain any type of standard. It is just what it is to the best of what we can do within the day. Fortunately I hear from customers that it is cozy. And organized. Huh. I’ll go with that. That makes me happy. But I would like to somehow hang a chandelier in here.
The bookstore itself was cozy but not crowded… And it was filled with that wonderful book smell that anyone who’s ever even been near a book will recognize. It’s more than the smell of paper; it’s the smell of the high seas and adventure and far off worlds. It’s the smell of a billion billion worlds, each a portal to somewhere new. – Shaun David Hutchinson, At the Edge of the Universe
In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend. _- Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind. (A great read!)
This is all my opinion.
I am a laid back owner. At least that’s how I view myself. This is ‘no rules’ store. No restrictions. No hold backs. Look in boxes on the floor. I’m okay to be interrupted. Ask whatever question you want. Climb over me to view the books I sell online. Etc., etc., etc. Except don’t go behind the curtain to the backroom. It may or may not be safe with piled boxes or even a path. I’m in the business to sell used books and that’s pretty much all I care about. Books, reading. literature, publishing, and all that great stuff. And embroidery. Sure there’s more but I’m keeping it used books.
If you believe you have books to unload it would be a good idea to call ahead to make sure there is someone who will be able to assist you. In other words, here to negotiate with. I don’t always buy but generally will accept donations. Or offer store credit. I never do consignment. Never. It can become complicated and this is a used bookstore with no complications. No conflicts. No complications.
I make final decisions as to what is accepted and the price I offer because this is my store. I know. That reads very stern. Well, sometimes I allow the customer to dictate to me and frankly, that never goes well. For me. So I’m trying to ‘buck up’ and be more assertive. You see, when I first bought the store I was so thankful for anyone walking into the store. Potential regular customers. No. Most times when people brought in books to sell I realized they weren’t going to be regular customers. Potential customers. Maybe. Generally, I never saw them again. Not that I need to but I had hoped to. Still true today.
Books need to be clean. Seriously. I’ll offer more if they are clean. If I have to clean them I probably won’t buy them unless they are say, Hemingway first editions. I’ll even fight off spiders for them. Kidding. I do not like spiders. At all. No spiders in boxes! Check them first! Please.
I will go through the boxes or bags to determine which books I’ll accept. Or as I like to say, will work in this store. In other words, will sell. Not all books are sellable. Or are right for this store. I have limited space and as you can tell if you’ve been in here recently we are maxed out. Hence the sales. And I’m feeling another one will be planned soon. If you’ve been in you know exactly.
The price I offer for books I’m buying might be considered low to some. The some who are looking to make a lot of money. I feel my used book prices are somewhat low. As low as I can make them. I do have an overhead I need to take care of – rent, utilities, and such. My competition is the internet. Not another used bookstore. Used bookstores complement one another. I have to determine how long the book will sit on the shelf, what price the book will sell in the store, condition and other factors.
So call ahead. Clean the books. I make final decisions. Never take the situation personal as I never do. And that’s it.
Please remember I do get claustrophobic. I work really hard to not get anxious about the boxes or piles of books surrounding me. I think I do rather well. Like for instance, I’m writing this blog rather than addressing all the recent arrivals into the store or that are still in the back of my truck that I know I have to content with. Just not now.
And all, thank you for your patronage. I really appreciate it. It is hard to have a retail business in this business climate but yet, it is so much fun. I love it. So thank you from the bottom of my heart.
When you sell a man a book you don’t sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue – you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night – there’s all heaven and earth in a book, a real book. – Christopher Morley
“You can’t put a price tag on love. But if you could, I’d wait for it to go on sale.”
― Jarod Kintz, This Book is Not for Sale
Yep! All books are on sale. Half-off. 50%.
I follow the example of a fellow used bookstore owner, Ben, of The Country Bookshop in Plainfield, VT. Check his store out! He suggested years ago when I have a sale make it a good one. His sales are always 50% off. So not wanting to miss out on all the fun he has, OCUB sales are always 50% off.
This sale celebrates completing our move from Main Street to where we are now in the MarbleWorks. Can you believe it’s been seven years we’ve been in this amazing location?
The Half-off Books Sale will run Monday, Sept 10 through Saturday, Sept 29.
“…Wow, when you put it that way… sure, I think I’ll buy a copy just to try reading, why not?” Mandy replied with a smile.”― Rebecca McNutt, Shadowed Skies: The Third Smog City Novel
I’m reading, The Diary of a Bookseller, by Shaun Bythell, owner of The Bookshop, Wigtown in Scotland. I get him. Totally. And I’m not even a quarter of the way through his book. It’s his world – his reality – of being a bookseller. Of owning a brick and mortar shop. Dealing with volumes of books, and handling customers and the like. Including not-my-friend, Amazon. Written in diary form to include the number of daily customers and “Till Total”. He is honest. And brave. And I love him. I want to shake his hand and say, “Bravo!”
I started this blog with the intent of writing about my life as a used bookstore owner. A young customer called me at the time ‘The Bookstore Lady’ so I took on that personality as I wrote of my experiences. Good. Bad. But one day I freaked out when a husband and wife were arguing about something I had recently written so they asked me which one was correct in interpreting the meaning of an entry on the blog. Honestly, that freaked me out. I pretty much stopped blogging then because I felt a curtain had come down on me and I was now exposed. I wasn’t sure what was exposed but I knew I felt weird about it and try as I might I had a difficult time posting after that. I wrote numerous drafts but never posted them. I took up writing them in my head and leaving them there.
I’m going to try it again. Will see. Hopefully. Bythell is my inspiration.
“…but there are also people – lots of them actually – who appreciate that if you want book shops to survive, you have to go to them and perhaps pay slightly more. That’s the logic that Shaun Bythell makes a living from, and it’s still working.” – The Herald, 23rd Sept 2017
“In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend.” – Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind.
I went to a used book sale recently and overheard a comment about the behavior of used book dealers. I was the only “dealer” in the immediate area. The implied comment was maybe in humor. Maybe not. Maybe to send a message. Maybe not. I wasn’t sure. I let it pass but then maybe I didn’t. Obviously not if I feel the urge to address it and feel the need to set the record straight. Or at least to introduce myself and present myself as to how I feel I represent a dignified group of people. The type of people I associate myself with. And to also point out that some private citizens behave badly at used book sales. Worse than dealers. But then I generally find people are quite civilized at most of the used book sales I attend. Granted, I don’t attend many since I purchased the store. I have come to rely on book scouts to represent me and the store. And I know they are very polite. Even the one who is trained for outdoor living skills.
I get it. Used books can trigger a need of possession. The need can be overwhelming to some people. They will go to great measures to be the one to scout out the book, grab it, shield it so others will not discover they are now the owner of the book. You know. They are the type to keep window curtains closed to their library from prying eyes who also will want to possess their books. Yes, I do know people like that.
That is not me. Far from it. I enjoy books. I take great satisfaction from books. I seek books out when I’m in the need of a good friend. Books offer comfort. Stability in a crazy world. A good cup of tea or milky coffee, a comfy chair, an afghan for chilly nights or rocking on my front porch to catch a cool breeze. I’m not married to books. I don’t personally need to possess them. When I finish reading my books they come into the store to resell. I pass them along and get great satisfaction to see someone picking up a book I just finished. Don’t get me wrong. I do have a library at home. Of books I want to read. See the difference?
And in case you are wondering, dear reader, yes. We are daily going through boxes of books and getting then on the shelves – or piled on the floor. Inventory is coming in, it seems, daily. Trying to keep up.
“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install A lovely bookshelf on the wall. Then fill the shelves with lots of books.”