Tag Archives: independent bookshops

Shopsitter Janelle says Farewell

We’re running a bit behind on timing because of the author humiliation contest – more entries posted Friday! This is our first shopsitter of the summer’s farewell post, and Kelly, our second shopsitter will be sending a post next week. (BTW, if you’re interested in shopsitting, we are looking for a week in October and a couple of weeks in December.)

Sadly, our shopsitting visit is soon coming to an end already.

We are excited about the potential of our final day sitting the shop, and we are tickled to have company coming for lunch tomorrow, too…folks that moved from our home area near Green Bay, Wisconsin, to Chuckey, Tennessee, several years ago. We just now realized how near to them we are while here.

To be honest, this shopsitting gig has been far more like a vacation than work. We have come to feel far more like family than “hired” help. And we have done more reading and relaxing than we have work. The latter I understand, I think. If I were home I’d find plenty to do (I’m pretty sure I have weeds waiting for me in my yard, taller than I am) but no matter how much work I invent for myself to do here (like re-organizing book stacks or putting sections of books back into alphabetical order or sweeping the front porch or doing dishes or laundry) I’ve still been getting to read and visit with guests (and Facebook) more than I would if I were at home this week.

And as for relaxing vacation, I’m not completely sure what to make of that, but I think it’s the Wendy factor. She has told her local people to make us feel welcome, and they sure have. We have been included in invitations to dinner and swim aerobics and church and told where the local walking/running trail is numerous times…and been included in pretty much all else that has gone on while we have been here. We have eaten nearly every meal offered (that will need to be addressed when we get home, too!) and, when I think about it, taken up very few of the exercise offers presented us. But Wendy threw out on Facebook that we wanted to do some local hiking, and after all sorts of suggestions for where we should/could go, kind friend Destiny simply said she would come and lead us, and she and her son Jack did!

I learned a lot while we were here; there is no question. I go home no less eager to one day have my own bookstore, no less eager to have Natalie bake and maybe cook for me like Kelley does in the Second Story Cafe here. Wendy and Kelley make that all look like a very easy, symbiotic relationship, not a “tough” job at all.

Wendy does, indeed, make it all look enjoyable and easy…although I do fear that I’d find in my own shop lots to do instead of this relaxed “I could do that” style. We prevented Wendy’s work from getting done sometimes with plenty of conversations, several good meals, a mutual glass of wine or bottle of beer here or there. Sometimes I really wanted her to go “make stuff,” assured that we could manage things here, and when she did, that’s when I felt I was contributing the most.

Otherwise, let’s be honest: I’d far prefer to hear her conversation with a guest to the shop–the exchange of local chit-chat, or updates on pet adoptions or procedures, or discussion of a new book, or valuing of books brought in for trade. If she wasn’t really “gone” from the shop, it was too easy for her to step in and do those things, and I seized the opportunities, then, to learn from the master.

I’ve very much enjoyed this adventure with my two youngest daughters, watching them melt kitten hearts and make new friends, devour books (Natalie stayed up until 2:40AM Saturday night…err, Sunday morning… finishing Water For Elephants, which she had started only the night before. It’s one of my all-time favorite books! How can I be upset with that activity?!) And I loved us getting to see, together, parts of the country we had not previously visited. Delaney’s determination to be THE one to get to “do the Square” any time a customer paid with a card or to be the one to take their cash, for that matter, showed me she has those super original cashier skills, communicating clearly and doing math in her head to make change (rather than NEED a cash register to do it for her). We go home with a new bond of mutual adventure and with many memories to share.

It’s like reading a book with someone, only better. The girls and I have shared a tremendous adventure, and I can only imagine how soon we’ll all talk about coming back! I imagine it will come up in the thirteen-hour ride home.Janelle on porch
Thanks for your hospitality, all. We have had a great time!

 

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, crafting, Downton Abbey, humor, Life reflections, publishing, reading, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized

Afterwords Bookstore Speaks….

This might be one of the sweetest press releases ever!  Jack and I head off Tuesday to speak at Afterwords Books.

Turning Retail Stores Into Community Resources
Bookstore Owners Lead Discussion for Local Business Owners at Special Event in Edwardsville

EDWARDSVILLE, ILL. October 11, 2013 – How can locally-owned businesses stay at the top of shoppers’ minds in a world dominated by big box stores and online retailers? On October 22, 2013, two family-run bookstore owners – one from Edwardsville, Ill. and one from Big Stone Gap, Va. – will share their stories how they transformed their stores into community hubs in order to drive sales.

Like many locally-owned retailers, LuAnn Locke of Afterwords Bookstore in Edwardsville faced an uphill battle in encouraging residents to shop local. As a bookstore owner, it was even more challenging with the proliferation of e-readers in the market. On the verge of closing shop, Locke connected with Wendy Welch, owner of Tales of the Lonesome Pine bookstore in Virginia and author of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap. Through her experience and buoyed by the lessons of Welch, Locke transformed Afterwords into a community resource for book lovers and was able to stay in business.

On October 22, Welch and Locke will join together at Afterwords to lead a discussion on how local businesses can be more than retail stores – they can be gathering spots that encourage community interaction to help boost sales. Welch and Locke will share best practices, grassroots marketing efforts and in-store programs that helped their businesses survive in a competitive marketplace.

Said Locke, “Welch’s book was instrumental in our decision to keep fighting the good fight – to continue to believe in Afterwords Books and what it means to our community. She has inspired to me to make the store a place where book lovers can connect over their shared interests and boost interest in reading throughout the region.”

Small business owners and the public alike are welcome to join in the discussion, starting at 7 p.m. Refreshments will be served, and a 20 percent discount will be offered on all book club selections. Afterwords Books is located at 232 Buchanan Street in Edwardsville, Ill. For more information about Afterwords or its upcoming events, visit www.afterwordsusedbooks.com or call 618-655-0355.

About Afterwords Books: Afterwords Books is a family owned and operated bookstore in Edwardsville, Ill. Afterwords offers customers both new and used books, a trade for credit program, free children’s story times, book clubs for all ages, a monthly documentary club, educational toys, and unique gifts crafted from local artisans. As a locally-owned store dedicated to the community, Afterwords is committed to serving as a community resource and gathering place for fans of the written word. For more information, visit www.afterwordsusedbooks.com.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, publishing, shopsitting, small town USA, VA, writing

Who? Me??

Jack’s Wednesday guest post -

As Wendy has posted in the past, we’ve been having lots of folk dropping into the shop who’ve read ‘The Little Bookstore’ – some from quite a distance (hhmmm – that sounds odd). They range from fairly large book-clubs to family groups and individuals and from Michigan to Florida. We’ve even got someone coming from Oregon in a month or two!

IMG_3640beulahAlmost without exception they take photographs, and these usually include pictures of our cats. The cats react to this attention in a variety of ways. Val-Kittie ignores everyone and continues working on her 5 year plan, while Beulah poses on the front porch – her domain – with great pride.

But the newest bookstore staff cat, Owen Meany, is just coming to grips with stardom. We didn’t have him while Wendy was writing; he came just at the end, and is named for the book Wendy was not supposed to hate. Owen is still too kittenish to carry off ‘aloof,’ and doesn’t have a personal domain to be proud of, or a story from the book for people to react to, so he does – – – kittenish things.owen meany 026

His favorite thing right now is to try to swing Tarzan-like from the tassel on the end of the fan pull-cord, although when he is discovered doing this he will quickly pretend to be working hard at something very important. Poor Owen; perhaps when Wendy writes her next book, he’ll be in it. That will make it easier for him to find his place in the bookstore world.

Owen sizing up the distance.

Owen sizing up the distance.

I'm working - really I am!

I’m working – really I am!

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized

My Boyfriend’s Back….

Jack came home Saturday afternoon, after the usual hoopla with United flights that just can’t fly on time. He flung himself onto the bed and made up for lost time.

Oh, wait, that reads funny. What I mean to say is, he took a nap.

When the Kraken awoke, I gave him an orientation tour of the new, improved bookstore. He was actually pretty impressed. “You moved all this stuff yourself?”

We get by with a little help from our friends. Thanks, Wes, Rachael and Elizabeth, who gave me shelf screwing, board sanding, and book shifting support, respectively. And Jennifer and Leroy who offered food and electric wiring assistance. And Mark, who brought milk, and Ben, who hefted books, and the rest of the gang who did untold things so Jack wouldn’t have to when he got home.

And then we got right back into our routines. He’d been home about three hours when night fell, and we both did our usual hop onto the Net, this time tucked up in the new cozy chairs that face one another in the bookshop’s front room. Funny how, when you’re social networking with friends, the fact that your husband is sitting three feet away catching up on blogs he follows raises the quality of the talking you’re not doing. It’s just nicer. Cozier. A safe and happy place in a crazy world.

On Sunday we also we got right back into “here’s what needs to be done in the shop today,” relocating a few final shelves and cleaning the downstairs underfloor in prep for the hardwood going down, but you know, when your beloved is next to you, it really doesn’t matter if you’re saying, “I love you madly, passionately, deeply. Come here and kiss me, you romantic fool!” or “D’ya think bamboo flooring would be best here? It’s got a great consumer reports rating.”

‘Cause it’s him. And he’s here. And we’re happy.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized

Why I’m not Blogging this Weekend

Driving back from Mt. Heritage Literary Festival, where I had taught a laughter-filled and successful workshop, the sun was shining, the buffalo were out (no really, there are some on that back road) and bees were humming among the blooming hillside clover. A perfect ending to a good day.

I had decided, since I would get back to the bookshop just before closing, to blow off the evening as a responsible adult, forget the laundry and the overdue writing, and kick back with a glass of red and a few episodes of my secret vice, Say Yes to the Dress. Then I’d write a nice cheery blog about my time at Mt. Heritage, take a cool bath with some scented talc, and pile into bed (while it was still daylight, maybe!) with a novel.

Pulling up in front of the bookstore, I watched a man exit and walk to a large pick-up, parked backwards so the bed faced the shop stairs. He scooped a he-man-sized stack into his arms and headed back up the stairs–just as my shopsitter exited the shop and went to the truck, where he performed the same actions.

A small sinking sensation gathered in my chest and worked its way down to my liver.

You guessed it: some 600 books, mostly hardbacks, had to be triaged, and quickly, as the shop’s front room floor had disappeared under the deluge. I began sorting and stacking, while faithful shopsitters Wes and Rachael trotted back and forth to the romance shed, the free book bin, and the bargain basement. I am proud to say that we got through this first round of sort-n-sift in about ten minutes, clearing some 200 books from the floor, but by then it was closing time, when Wes and Rach resume their normal lives.

No no, don’t worry about me, go on, I’ll be fine. Nothing planned this evening anyway.

book stacksGood thing. Fortunately, I’ll still have help.

Owen helps with books large book stacks It’s gonna be a long night…..

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Filed under animal rescue, book repair, bookstore management, humor, publishing, shopsitting, Uncategorized

Love hurts – or does it?

Jack’s usual weekly guest blog post -

It’s funny how connections can get made across time and distance.

When I was attending primary school, back in the 1950s in Dunfermline, Scotland, one of my best friends was Manuel Charlton. We stayed in touch off and on over the next twenty years or so as he developed his musical skills and began playing with a rock band called the Shadettes that played regularly in the local dance halls. They never recorded, I don’t think, and were rarely commented on in the music press – just an anonymous small town band playing covers of current hits.

Then they changed their name to Nazareth (named for the opening line of ‘The Weight’ by The Band) and almost immediately were signed by a major recording label. One of their early singles was ‘Love Hurts’ and this was a massive world-wide hit for them. These four guys from Dunfermline went on to record numerous albums and hit singles.

Just a couple of years ago my good friend and marvelous fiddle player Pete Clark was invited to join them on stage for a celebration concert in the original Carnegie Hall in Dunfermline (birthplace of Andrew Carnegie) – it shouldn’t have worked, but it did. Pete wove seamlessly into their best known hits and cavorted around the stage as if born to the life!

Just a few years earlier I was being interviewed on radio in Slovakia and the record played immediately before (completely by coincidence) was ‘Love Hurts’ by Nazareth.

Back to the point – one of our most loyal customers here in the bookstore is a guy who is seriously into rock music and I was able to bring him from Scotland a signed copy of a poster for the concert that Pete took part in. When Wendy and I , as we often do, visited Mackay’s bookstore in Knoxville this last Sunday (whenever we visit with her parents we head to Mackay’s afterwards), I headed upstairs to their music department. There, in the LP section, staring me in the face, was Manny Charlton – for a dollar fifty!

I immediately thought of ‘the loyal customer’ and handed it over to him this morning – to his great delight.

So, Manny Charlton – although we haven’t spoken in a long time, we continue to connect and you continue to bring great pleasure to your fans.

Manny in full flow.

Manny in full flow.

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Questions and Answers (you will never hear in a bookstore)

We apologize for the delay in this weekend’s blog. Wendy was away writing, and Jack forgot!

Questions bookstore customers ask and the answers bookslingers long to give, but never do.

“Where do you get your books from?”

The book fairy brings them. At night. And we also get together with other bookstore owners and dance naked around the book conjuring cauldron on James Patterson’s birthday.

Gullible people like you who don’t know there are hundreds of pennies to be made on the sale of each and every hardback work of fiction ever published.

Oh, we just go to the library and search the dumpster.

Yard sales. And then we mark them up 400%. And spray them with Lysol if they smell like cat pee. What can I help you find today?

“So have you read all these books? Heh heh heh.”

Duh. You think I’d sell a book I hadn’t read?

Just the red ones. Heh heh heh.

Who, me? I’m sorry; I thought you were asking the shop cat. Yes, she has.

“Do you sell books?”

No. This is a drug front. Say the password so I know you’re not an undercover cop.

Only if we can’t talk you into a Nook or Kindle.

Sometimes, if we’re very lucky.

“So how’s this work, like a library, you borrow the books and bring them back?”

No. You buy the books and bring them back. Then if we like you we’ll sell them to you for another two weeks.

Yes, that’s how it works, but you have to give us your Social Security Number so we can sign you up.

Oh, is THAT how a library works?! I’ve always been afraid to try one, since I saw that HBO film as a child, where the librarian looks all sweet and kindly but is actually a soul-sucking demon from Hell.

“Is this the adult bookstore?”

That depends on how you’re using the word “adult.”

Get out. And wash that raincoat.

Why? Can you read?

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Filed under book reviews, bookstore management, humor, publishing, Uncategorized