Midd Arts Walk – July 10 – Featuring Ben Aleshire, Poet-for-Hire

midd-art-walk_sitin-posterFriday, July 10th the Middlebury Arts Walk will be an Art Sit-In. Artists have been encouraged to spread out all over town and set-up their easels, open their art pads, bring their knitting needles, thread their needles and get brushes ready. The Arts Walk will featuring all sorts of artists using all types of mediums all over the town. Including the Historic Marble Works.

OCUB will be featuring poetry through Poet-for-Hire, Ben Aleshire, who will be set-up outside the store’s door.

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Aleshire is originally from Cuttingsville, VT. He’s an award-winning poet who edits Honeybee Press, but he also works as a ‘Poet-for-Hire’, by creating custom poems for all who pass by in the street, typed up on a manual typewriter. He typically can be found every Saturday at the Farmer’s Market in Burlington. For the last several years he was a fixture on Royal Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Books and broadsides printed with lead type in a Vandercook letterpress will also be available.

A sample of his poetry:

Apology to the Dandelion
by Benjamin Aleshire

Forgive me, friend —
I wished too hard.
We all go to pieces, sometimes.
Now I must comb
this vast meadow
for every last bit of you —
Oh   oh   the others are not like you.
You are the only one.
In this field yellow with others,
their gold means nothing to me;
I cannot even see them,
though they surround me.
How could I not have realized
that what I was wishing for
was already waiting in my hand?
for Marianne

Currency front Cover

Stop by. It’ll be fun.

June Middlebury Arts Walk features White Dragon Paper

IMG_2091White Dragon Paper is R. Lawton who makes handmade paper and journals since 2008.

The leather journals are made with recycled paper. R. Lawton prides herself on using only recycled, eco-friendly fiber and reducing the amount of paper that is wasted. The leather is sourced from a scrap bin of a local leather supply store located near her.

 

 
Here is a sampling of her handmade paper. I love the range of colors:

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You can find R. Lawton and White Dragon Paper at Etsy.com. Check her out!

Time Marches on. Change is Good.

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Front entrance to Otter Creek Used Books in the Lazarus Building

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The Vermont section

I want to pay tribute to 20 Main Street – The Lazarus Building – previous home to Otter Creek Used Books. The building will be coming down this weekend. I feel bad that I’m not sad about it. Probably because I remember how I felt being down in the basement day after day. I brought life into it with paint, rearranged bookcases to even removing some for air circulation and light flow. What there was of the light. I was proud of what I brought into it but I have to admit there was only so much I could do. Do I even mention all the air fresheners that were sprinkled around the rooms? Crazy when we moved how many we found.

It was a good space though. I made the most of it. And it was filled with used books! So that accounts for some good vibes. I loved the front window and all of the light and warmth it provided. I like how through Jessica and her professional decorating skills new life was brought into the front upstairs room. The blue tiled floor, the yellow walls. Over-sized letters announcing BOOKS down the stairs. The wrought iron railing. Piling books on the stairs. And when you ventured down them the layout of bookshelves and all the dissplays on top. It had character. The stepping into the back room where more books were discovered. I enjoyed hearing first time customers oohing and ahhing about the ‘hidden room’. And the access to the back of the store where I could – and did a number of times – run out to pick up my order from Noonies in between customers.

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The back room

When it would get quiet in the store I would listen to customers above me walking around Green Mountain Shoe & Apparel. Loved it when children were trying on new boots! Clomp, clomp, clomp!

There were a lot of good things about the space. As much as there was good there were that many of bad and ickyness. But that’s not for now. Now is a time to celebrate all that the building was and represented.

Stan Lazarus was a nice man. With a great smile and sense of humor. He was a giving man who gave back to his community. I shopped at Lazarus for my shoes, jeans, raincoats and more. I remember many occasions of checking out what they had to offer from elementary through college years. I know the building stands as a symbol of yesterdays to many people. When I made the decision to move the store – in anticipation of the work on the train tracks – I heard from many people their concerns of how the move would affect the life of the building. I agreed but I also knew it was time to move on including my business. Unfortunately the owners never kept up with modernizing the building as they should.

The front desk

The front desk

The space was good to me and my business. Now is the time to celebrate it. I was able to buy a failed business and through my limited funding allow the business to grow. The owners of the building were very supportive of my efforts and to that I’m grateful and appreciative. They understood my goals and how I was going to get there.

Time moves on and there is no stopping it. And I’m not going to try to. I’ve always been one to look at my options and make a decision based on what I’m seeing and what I’m anticipating. Knowing the train tracks and overpass were being addressed and how that would affect my business, the issues of the space and how my daily attitude was starting to change. I’m happy I did as I love this space here in the Marble Works. The positives are overwhelming here. I miss Main Street but that is the only thing I miss. Okay, and the big window. Thank you Stan and the Trustees of the Lazarus Estate for your support and encouragement. Time marches on and I feel good about it.

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Mat Hall with the sign he designed and painted. It was to encourage drivers to slow down as they rounded the corner. Children would stop to talk to Ollie the Otter.

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Always fun to decorate the window. This window was celebrating Books

 

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Sales could be found on the patio as well as on the first floor.

 

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Helen was a helper. Here she is singing songs she adapted from the poetry of James Joyce

 

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Goodbye old friend!

 

“It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.” -Paulo Coelho, The Zahir 

Otterly Rambles

ocub_blocksSo much for New Year resolutions! That’s all I’m going to say about that. The year has so far been very good to the store. I’ve been busy with SPS – sorting, pricing, shelving. That is what my time has been taken up with. No complaints here!

In between all my store busyness, I’ve also been thinking of what to write about. Have I covered all there is about owning a used bookstore? No. But I don’t want to nag about stuff. I don’t want to complain about things. I want to be positive and let go some of the weirdness. Some things are just not meant to be written about. Like what? Like how I sweep the floor every day, mop as needed – careful around the books piled on the floor. I like the vision of walking into the store and noticing a clean floor in the Big Yellow Room. The light reflecting in through the windows. It gives a cozy feel between the bookcases. To not forget to water the plants. That kind of stuff. Also rearranging shelves displaying books and nicknacks. To make it interesting to regular customers always looking for what’s new.

I’ve also given myself permission to read during open store hours. What??? Seriously that was hard to do. I always felt I had to appear busy doing something. I have no idea why. Maybe I just don’t want people to think I sit around all day. Well, I’m not sitting all the time. My in-the-store book I’m reading is George Orwell’s,  Keep the Aspidistra Flying. More on the book later.

Currently I’ve been working on a literary tour of Addison County, Vermont. I did two guides while employed at the Addison County Chamber of Commerce – Mid Vermont Heritage Guide. Working on a take-off of them. It’s a lot of research and a lotta fun.  Check it out. There is a link of the beginning stage at the top of the page. It is a work in progress.  A lot of info is missing including links but they’ll be coming. And photos. Let me know what you think and what needs to be added. Suggestions are encouraged. Part of the process.

Thanks!

Happy New Year!

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“Perhaps that is where our choice lies — in determining how we will meet the inevitable end of things, and how we will greet each new beginning,” from the book BURNING by Elana K. Arnold.

Happy New Year one and all! May 2014 equally bless us with good cheer and fortune.

Thank you for a wonderful 2013.

Barbara Harding, owner

Random Thoughts on Used Bookstore Daily Activities

Sitting here thinking of what I should write and nothing specific is coming to mind. So this post is going to be of random thoughts from this used bookstore lady.

This year for the Middlebury Arts Walk I have been celebrating bookmarks. It was interesting during the first walk I was asked by a customer, “What type of bookmarks are you featuring? For a website?” Huh? It took me a few moments for me to register what she was asking. “For books,” I replied. Then she got confused. I showed her one of the bookmarks and then she understood. Interesting. Come into the store and see the bookmarks I’m offering for sale. They are mostly made by Vermont artists. Only one isn’t.

My reason for choosing bookmarks is to highlight how there are so many cool things for books – actual books with pages one has to manually turn – as opposed to e-readers. One can purchase or make a cool cover but how about bookmarks? Book lights? Book covers? And when the book falls apart you can make art. Well, you could. You don’t have to but you could.

If you have been by the store lately you would have noticed that the vines on the outside of the building has been removed. I was somewhat torn about taking it down but I am very happy with the results. My signage stands out and as you walk by you can actually see my window displays. That excites me very much because that was one thing I missed moving from Main Street – that huge window. Now I have two facing the parking lot. I have to start planning my displays now. Before with the vines the windows were hard to see so I didn’t spend time on them nor changed them often.

Another change on this side of Marble Works is that the Farmers Market has moved over here. The area overlooking the Otter Creek is being re-sod for the new Riverfront Terrace and Walkway. To accommodate those coming to the Market I have been opening the store earlier at 9 a.m. Both Wednesday and Saturdays. It has been great fun for me. I’ve been welcoming even locals who didn’t know I moved the store two years ago. They thought I closed. Once again proving that one can do everything one can to promote a business (in this case) but not everyone is going to get it. Aside from telling each individual. I don’t mean to be rude. It’s just the way it is. I’m good with that.

The 50% sale went over very well the previous week. Once again it was an unadvertised sale. It allows me to thank customers – new and old – for their business as well as to turn over inventory. I have many new boxes to add to the store. Including ten boxes stored in my house and those are mighty fine books: world history, WWI, WWII, books on books and more. They are itching to come in. And I’m itching to get them out of the house.

Yesterday – Friday, August 9 – was National Book Lovers Day and all books were 10% off to celebrate. Again, a nice surprise for customers.

I’m in my quiet time of the store -2 pm-3:30. This is the time I close the store for a few minutes to check my mailbox and enjoy some fresh air. So that’s what I going to do. Later.

 

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?

 

 

A Total Used Bookstore Geek

 

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Yes, I admit it wholeheartedly! I am a used book geek. I throw in used bookstore because well, I own a used bookstore (duh!) so actually does that make me a double-geek? I don’t care. That’s who I am and proud of it!

So, I have become a maniac for stickers on book jackets. I came across one book – ugh! I can’t remember which one! – and I saw the sticker “Shakespeare & Co. ” What? Really? Seriously? I adore/admire/envious/etc., etc.  of Sylvia Beach, the woman behind Shakespeare & Company. The first and real one. Of course the sticker I found isn’t from her era but still, it is from Paris (assuming).

I downloaded the above photo from the Internet many years ago and have it stuck to the wall above my desk here at the store -where I’m sitting right now- and I attached the sticker to it. (see above.) So cool. It makes me happy.

Someday…I’ll make it to Paris. And London. And Hay-On-Wye…And…

I’ve put this off…

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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...

 

What Happens in a Used Book Store When It’s Quiet?

So, wouldn’t you like to know? Actually, believe it or not, I get asked that a lot. “So you probably just sit and read all day. What a job you have.” Actually no. It really is hard work. But then again it is a used bookstore so, seriously, the work isn’t all that hard. Or that bad. But it is still work. There is always books to shelve. Always. Keeping fiction in order and filling in the holes of purchased titles. Sweeping. Dusting. Slipping in reading or at least skimming a few pages.

But what happens on the days when, well, customers are far between? Say on a snowy day that no one in their right mind would be on any road except for a used bookstore owner and the postal worker? And why do we always seem to make it in? Why don’t we stay home like sane people do? Because we don’t want to disappoint customers. Those that need to have something fresh to read. To curl up on a sofa with a fresh pot of tea or a cup of steaming coffee. We don’t like to disappoint them. So we trod in and open the doors, sweep off the sidewalk, turn on the lights and sit and wait. Even if no one will show at the door at least we were open in case we were needed.

I’ve always wondered what other used bookstore owners did on those quiet days. Me? I generally do the same as always except every hour I go outside and sweep off the sidewalk leading to my door. Wander the shelves to tuck in books, re-alphabetize as needed and think that I should be reorganizing Religion and finish Cookbooks, and Gardening but well, I don’t. I’ll save it for another day. Dusting? Do used bookstore owners really dust? Doesn’t that hurt the ambiance? Just a thought. And then the mighty question, now what do I read? That took a bit until I finally settled on P.G. Wodehouse’s, Jeeves Omnibus. But then there is also Kipling and what about…ugh! That is a perfect dilemma for a used bookstore owner – settling on what next to read.

Today being a wintry day with more snow on the way tonight I posed a question to my fellow booksellers in Vermont, “Hey, what are you doing to entertain yourself on this quiet, snowy day?” Of course, I made it sound that I was quite busy – out straight – because I don’t want them to know I’m having a slow day. Kidding. I told them. I’ve had three customers so far and hoping that no one is taking pity on me because the snow has brought out tons of customers for them! Actually we are all very supportive to one another. Yes, for real. No real competition amongst us. Unless, of course, at a library sale but that’s for another story.

As I mentioned, I emailed the VABA (Vermont Antiquarian Bookseller Association) group and here is the response I received: “Right now I am busy preparing the brochure for the book fair, but I have done any and all of those things on a slow day.  The cleaning is usually the last thing, though.  Slow days are also usually when I can’t ignore the bookkeeping any more, and write up sales, etc. Tea is always much more appealing, sometimes while reading the local paper, and takes up far too much of the day,” from one seller up north.

Here’s someone just down the road from me, “Well, I’ve been repairing and cleaning some books. Starting to pack for the book fair. Dealing with several small chores that needed to get done but kept putting off. Checking facebook, checking email, and watching videos on YouTube. It’s 4 pm, and I actually have two people in the shop but they spending most of their time petting the cat! Not snowing here right now. Less than an hour to closing.”

And from some unknown part of Vermont (;-)) I received this response: “Yep!  It has been snowing here all day….winter getting in the last licks.  Did not go to the store today…schools closed, road only plowed once and the plow just went up the hill for the second time today.  So, I worked on my taxes…always a wonderful thing to do on a snowy day…and I have a little less hair and fewer dollars in my pocket after the government takes it’s cut.  I wonder if we could qualify for some of those government grants and handouts for historic preservation on Antiquarian Book Stores or something along that line…maybe even for being mentally deranged in working for little or nothing??? Thanks for the break in the boring work of doing tax forms, where completion of one form requires another form to complete the form of another form so you can do the form you started on, and those wonderful people in the Washington, DC area that work on paperwork reduction!!!!!! Best, Name withheld to protect the guilty party.

See we always keep ourselves busy even if we can’t make it into the store. But he would have if he could have I bet!

Oh! Time for me to turn out the lights and head home. Grab my book – ok, books – to read tonight and get ready to repeat for tomorrow. But hopefully busier.