Otter Updates

We’ve been very busy in the store! So many books have come in so most of the time it’s been going through them – SPS (sorting, pricing, shelving).

1-photo(109)1-photo(106)1-photo(108)Slow and steady. Civil War to local authors and fiction and a lot of others sprinkled in. Come in and check them out. Surely something will catch your eye.

Last Friday – July 11, 2014 – was the Middlebury Arts Walk. The artist was Hannah Harding-Minton (SCAD ’05). Below is a sampling of her work keeping to our store’s theme of Words.

Hannah Harding Minton 1Hannah Harding Minton 2Hannah Harding Minton 3

Hope your summer is going as great as ours. We’ve a great selection of good summer reads. Stop in and peruse or at least stop in to say hi! Enjoy!




Downside of a Used Bookstore. But the Only One.

used booksI know I’m always saying to customers that owning a used bookstore is everything you’d think it would be but only better. That’s the truth. It is awesome. You can make it anything you want it to be – highly organized to total chaos  – and get away with it because it’s a used bookstore. No rules. Fabulous.

Okay, to come clean, there is a downside of owning a used bookstore. At least to me. What?  It’s buying books. I receive calls daily asking if I’m buying.  People stopping in…and that’s where it gets awkward. Now remember this is strictly for me. It may not be true for other used bookstore owners.

When I purchased the store I bought books from everyone thinking I was beginning a relationship with potential customers. It took me a bit to realize that I generally didn’t see those people ever again.  Lesson learned. So I stopped buying unless I knew the customer, knew they were local or had books which could/would sell in the store. It was a hard lesson and an expensive one in the long run but at the time, I thought it was important.

Now I am, well, most of the time, savvy. At least more so.   If boxes come in that are nasty I really don’t want to open them up to see what’s inside. Some boxes have been just grossness. I don’t like end-of-yard-sales boxes generally either. I’ve learned  people can relieve their conscience by dropping off boxes here than at ACSWD (Addison County Solid Waste District). I won’t even write about the boxes that were full of spiders. Oops, I did. Well, now you know!

The hard part of buying books is quoting a buying price. I don’t like that position at all. Books are subjective. I get it. But many don’t. Yes, your books may be special but sometimes they are generally only special to you. I don’t want to come off snobby here. But facts are facts. And while I’m at it, if it is an old book it doesn’t necessarily make it special either.  As like today, there were crappy books written ages ago. Oh, and number of boxes does not equate a larger pay out. It is not quantity but quality of the books. Repeating: it is not quantity but quality that makes the difference. And while I’m on that subject, the cleaner the books the more money I’m apt to give. I take into consideration of the condition of the book while determining price. And spiders get reduction in price!

When I purchase books I take into account a guesstimate of how long it might sit on the shelf. And how much money I have in my coffers. Also, will I ever see the seller again. By that I mean, is the seller also a buyer? Hint: buyers keep the store alive.


Good! I’ve gotten that out of my system! Now I can move on to another topic. I’ve been sitting on this draft for weeks and weeks. Trying to keep it whimsical, positive. Not sure if it is but time to post and move on.


The Rumpus Continues for Two More Days!

08022013_saleAs the chalkboard sign indicates there is a 50% sale going on for all books. I call it a secret sale. In other words, you have to be walking in or by to note the sale as well as see the sign greeting you when you walk into the store.  An appreciation sale for customers and to help move around inventory and, of course, to encourage new  customers. The sale, which started on Monday, has been going very well. Fun to surprise customers especially the regulars.

Tomorrow should be fun with the Middlebury Farmers Market on this side of the Marble Works, the North Marble parking lot. It’s moving so the other side, the Riverfront Park, can  get needed improvements. The Farmers Market will continue on this side for the rest of the season. I’m already planning on my lunch – Thai  food – picking up veggies, and a Saturday favorite, chocolate croissant. How easy it will be to run out in between customers to make a purchase or two. Of course I’m more excited about the potential to reach more customers who otherwise might not even know this store exists because they only stay on that side of Marble Works. But have you tried the Thai food? Wouldn’t it be fun to sit on the marble block (see above), enjoying a good read (a used book, of course!), and chowing down on some good food?



I’ve put this off…


I’ve been put off posting for a bit. Mainly because I didn’t want to write about what’s been going on here but due to a rumor that was just told me I felt the need to blog about it. All will be fine.

As many know by now, I have my store on the market, for sale. Oh, it was a hard decision, you can be assured of that but I am one to be honest and forthright. Rather than hearing rumors you may read the reasons. If one stopped in the store I would answer all questions as I have been doing.

Back in November 2012 I was taken to Porter Hospital and checked myself into the ER with heart palpitations. Severe enough that the doctor wanted to admit me for overnight monitoring but nope, I wasn’t going to have that. So I did everything I could within my power to breathe through, meditate, relax, anything! to bring my heart beat down and  within the range to allow me to go home. Oh yea, and meds.  I was diagnosed with a condition -don’t ask me to spell it- and on medication and recognizing that it will now be something I have to live with. No problem! All tests came back that I was fine and to continue doing everything as I have been.

During my time in the ER my husband, Rusty, asked me to “please, now put the store on the market so we could have quality time together.” Hiking, camping, traveling, and the like. This event was to serve as our wake-up call. Our roles have reversed somewhat from when we were first married and throughout most of our married life. He worked 24/7 it seemed while General Manager of the Middlebury Inn. Now that he is GM at the Courtyard Marriott, he is awarded with more downtime though he could be there 24/7 because well, that is his nature. But he has many weekends off. I don’t. I work in the store six days a week and though it isn’t taxing it does take dedication.

I am a person who lives by my word. It took me several months to actually make the commitment and seek out a realtor and then it took me several weeks once committed to come to the realization that it wasn’t going to sell overnight. Phew! So now you realize I have mixed feelings about this but I understand and appreciate that when the right buyer comes along it will be right.

I can’t help but look back on my life as a bookstore lady and recognize that I have mostly achieved my dreams. Though owning a used bookstore was never in my life plans it should have been. I’m proud of how I turned around the business from a failing Main Street business to one that is now on its own, paying its bills. I moved the store, going on two years now, to the Marble Works. I understand in deciding to move the store that I would be setting it back again a few years but one that I have never looked back on with regret. I love this space with its nooks and crannies. I love the community of the Marble Works. We look after one another. I love how some who live in the Marble Works Residences pop in to see how I’m doing. What I’m finding here is what I hoped to and expected on Main Street but didn’t happen. It is a wonderful world ‘down here’.

I stayed in my previous employment for over a year at the Addison County Chamber of Commerce in order to pay the store’s bills. Sales & Use Tax was paid quarterly. When I left ACCOC it took a number of months until I received new paperwork in the mail from the state that I was now required to pay S&U Tax monthly. Hooray! That was my first sign that the business was turning and from that I have done well. But leaving Main Street was somewhat of a difficult decision only because I knew it was going to be hard for customers to find the new location. No business really wants to leave Main Street. But I was in the basement of an aged building that the owners didn’t reinvest in. There was a crack in the foundation that when it rained I had to be prepared for puddles appearing.  In the summer I was daily spraying the outside of the building to detract the bugs crawling in. No windows but for the large plate glass overlooking Main Street and one in the back door. And with pending railroad work it really threatened the ability of keeping the door open. At least the front door. Hence my decision to move the business. Though it did set me back financially I would do it again.

I’m outgrowing this space but I love looking for other ways to feature the books. Just being creative. My claustrophobia is getting better. I look around myself now and see piles of books waiting for pricing or shelving. And the boxes! Many boxes waiting to be gone through.

So enough of this break! I have got shelving to do. Open up a box or two. Look-up some books for a customer and yea, a stream of customers just walked in.

yes, some days...


[Used] Books vs E-books

Right off, my comparison is going to be a lot different than you are probably use to. As a seller of used books I’m not frightened of e-readers. Not at all. Why you ask? Well, let’s look at the differences.

When you think of used books you might think of an image such as:
Or what about this:Or:
Books – physical books – stir emotions. Create anticipation. Discovery. As well as artistic backdrops. The smell, possible notations from previous owner(s), mementos tuck in between pages. Even serve as a diary. A diary of remembrance. A pile of books. Enjoyable to look at. Am I not right? Of course I am!

Here’s a couple of e-book (Kindle) images my daughter took. I told her to think artistically.

(What is she reading???)

And to be fair, one more:

See what I mean? And of course, real books are better to read. Maybe heavier but so much more personality. I know I’m right.  And to be fair to my daughter, she has piles of books around. Piles! I don’t know why she has a Kindle but I don’t judge.

And besides, you’ll never see this with any e-books – an aisle full of them.



Otter Creek Used Books On Stage

I went online and snagged the following photos posted on the college’s Middlebury Campus newspaper []. I just had to show the set. Be forewarned! You are going to swoon. All the books came from the store and the pages (leaves) were books that were either falling apart or destined for the local recycling center. Can you imagine a book not wanting to be a part of this amazing set? For information about the play see my previous post. Enjoy!

Resolution Time!

I generally don’t make resolutions but I decided this year I would and publicly announce them. I should clarify, store related. Personally I don’t make any. I’m not even going to put myself in that position. Store related is different. Its professional. It is all about the store and being a good used bookstore lady and representative of the industry. An industry I believe in and one that I feel has a strong future. Seriously now, do you believe that e-books will totally replace books? I don’t. Even if I didn’t own a used bookstore I’d feel that way. Anyways, before I lose track of this post…

Resolutions.  What kind of resolution would a used bookstore want to make? Post more books online, is one thing. Make a conscious effort in blogging and better represent the books that enter the store. Feature them. Write about them. Maybe work towards creating an inventory of the books? And how about this one…read. Yes, read. I’m giving myself permission to read when the store is open. Well, that’s craziness, you are probably thinking. You think I read all the time. No. I don’t. Actually there is a lot of work to do in a used bookstore. It can be what you want to make of it. I chose to be – or try – to be on top of the incoming books. By now you know that I don’t like boxes of books lying around. Especially me. So I try to go through them quickly to SPS (sort, price, shelve). But lately I’m finding myself not so intense about them. Am I getting lax? Maybe so. Or maybe I’m starting to feel more comfortable with the store and relaxing some. Something to ponder, if one so chooses.

There might be more to the list but for someone who doesn’t make New Year’s resolutions I think that it’s a lot. So with that…here’s to an awesome 2013!


Catching Up With OCUB

Hello! I have been so busy and I’ve been wanting to update my blog but well, you know how I am – or you should – I can’t stand boxes and clutter. Especially boxes all around me in the front room. (Still need to come up with a cool name for this room.) I’ve had a lot of boxes come in so that means I’ve been busy. Busy SPSing. You know, sorting/pricing/shelving. Getting books up on the shelves and keeping the room sort-of respectable-like. I do have to write that currently I am surrounded with boxes of books: french, children, spirituality, over-sized art and wildlife, and at my feet…well, I started a pile I’ve set aside for me to read. It is Saturday and I just want a little break.

I have a lot to write about! One thing, the book I highlighted in my last post…sold! I was sad but yet I knew it was going to a great home so I was excited. Mixed emotions. It sold because the woman who purchased it read my blog and came in to look at and hold the book. I admitted I tucked the book away – sure it was on a shelf but one had to look for it. She was excited it was still here. I hope the lucky recipient enjoys it as much as she and I do.

The Vermont History Expo was held in Tunbridge several weekends ago and on that Sunday I went down to help out in the VABA booth along with some of my fav VT used bookstore owners. In the few hours that we were all together we had great conversations ranging from customer habits (Yes, all good! Ok, mostly.), to how we really feel about used books (we love them, of course!), what sells and what doesn’t, and we threw in some ghost stories to make it all interesting. Unfortunately I cannot upload the photos I took that day. My laptop faded out early last week. It really just faded out. Now I am using a new-to-me Mac that my daughter gave me. Ugh! Going from a PC to an Apple is a very difficult thing. For me. I’m not complaining because her husband is pulling out my files and transferring to another new-to-me laptop. So I am patiently waiting to receive that computer. When I receive it then I’ll post those images and get on with my postings.

I’m constantly asked what I read. Well, I’ve recently started reading VT women authors: Kathryn Davis,  Sue Halpern and Suzi Wizowaty to name a few. Of course Dorothy Canfield Fisher is who I’ll be going to next. Then onto one of the nicest woman around (yes, a local author), Julia Alvarez. Plus in-between I have been reading books on books or bookstores: Ulin’s, “The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time” and in the middle of Margaret Hard’s “A Memory of Vermont: Our Life in the Johnny Appleseed Bookshop.” And to really mix it up I’m almost done with a May Sarton book, “Shadow of a Man,” to which I’m most grateful to one of my amazing customers for making the author suggestion.

So sorting, pricing, shelving (constantly) and throw in cleaning the books as they come out of the boxes, reading, embroidering I’ve been keeping busy. Note I didn’t mention cleaning my house….yeah….


mmmm….Do You Smell That? Take A DEEP Breathe…. :)

So…chemists at University College in London investigated  the odor of books and have concluded that “old books release hundreds of volatile organic compounds into the air from the paper.” Okay. I get that. Well, the lead scientist has described the smell as “A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness.” And that’s why we all love the smell of old books! Acids and vanilla = perfect combo!

Researching a bit on this topic I learned that there is now a scratch-it that releases the smell of old books. To put on one’s I-pad or Nook or other e-readers. Really? That’s crazy! So people think that they can add a scratch-it sticker and feel better holding their e-reader because now it’ll seem like holding a book? mmm. I find that just craziness. Why not just purchase a used book? I guarantee you’ll appreciate that book a whole lot better. Remember it’s the experience.