Tag Archives: SIBA

We’re not THAT weird…. are we?

O wad some Power the giftie gie us Tae see oursels as ithers see us!–Robert Burns

Sitting in church behind a well-heeled woman, Burns noted lice in her coiffure. History doesn’t tell us how the woman felt about this immortalization–or if she recognized herself–but Jack and I are going through a similar struggle.  In preparation for our two-week Istanbul hiatus, we are writing a shop guide for Mark and Sally Smith, who are coming from Memphis to shopsit.

Mark says their friends alternate between “Oh, can I join you?” and staging interventions.

Wait until their friends hear about the shop guide. We find ourselves typing bald statements like “When Valkyttie gets angry she pees down the bathroom heat vent.”

Will they even read the rest, the tried-and-tested wisdom of our cleaning guru Heather, herself the owner of an angry kitty, plotting kitty, grrr, grrr, grrr? “Put a paper towel on the duster stick by the vent, swish-n-soak, then spray shaft with Heather’s magic elixir. Make sure it’s off first.” Or will they run in terror from a bookshop whose CEO is a pissing-mad eighteen-year-old Scottish cat clever enough to maximize effects?

Given corporate culture today, peeing down a shaft is not that bad, but having no boss is part of Mark and Sally’s fun. The place is yours: do as you will! The shop guide is assistance, not direction.

Jack and I wonder how they’ll react to the section “COLORFUL LOCAL CHARACTERS,” depicting (among others) the bald man with the spider tattoo wrapping his head. Fixated on Fred Saberhagen’s Berserker series, Spider Guy keeps saying “BEE-serk-ER,” like a French surname, despite Jack’s efforts. Six foot six, hands like banana bunches, Spider Guy picks up foster kittens and coos to them as he wanders the shop, kitty curled purring against his chest.

We have several local characters who talk without listening; we see them coming, adjust our conversation-o-meters to “stunned” and let it roll. Throw in a “yep, I can get that for you” and make them feel like royalty. All part of the job. I think of it as a computer adventure game set in real life.

But then there’s the back scratcher hanging in the kitchen. Without it, you can’t turn on the light. One night Bert got it in his mouth and Jack and I chased him through the shop, screaming, “Drop it! Don’t chew!”

Dog chases, there’s a thing. The guide tells how to recapture Bert and Zora should they slip out. [Equipment: two leashes, raisin-less breakfast bars, and a car key, kept in a Ziploc pouch at the back door.] It’s the kind of thing one doesn’t think twice about until explaining to someone else….

Really, Mark and Sally, you’re going to have a grand time. Honest!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized

A Little Help from our Friends

Jack guest blogs on the value of friendships, especially in small town shops

This weekend we are once again on our travels with book events, from the John Fox Festival here at home, through a visit to Clifton Forge Library, and then on to the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville. As usual when we are away for a few days our friends rally round to staff the bookstore on rota.

Just call us The Little Book Co-op of Big Stone Gap.

These friends handle book sales, oh yes, but there are also the shop animals to care for, boxes of donated or traded in books to be valued and priced (or politely refused), mail to be collected and opened for book orders, and phone inquiries to be responded to. Although amazed that anyone would be willing to take this on, we are delighted that we have so many friends who will. They represent one aspect of the community presence of our bookstore; we really are almost a co-operative owned by its customers. Quite often a ‘regular’ will be hanging out, checking e-mails or browsing the bookshelves, when suddenly he finds himself in charge of the shop for ten minutes while I do a post office run or dash out for milk.

Occasions like this weekend require a bit more pre-planning, but, despite other calls on folks’ time, we always manage to keep the shop open. We never succumb to the erosion of hours, no matter how tempting; it’s our observation that when small businesses become careless about that, their days are numbered.

So, we pay homage to the many friends of ‘Tales of the Lonesome Pine’ AKA ‘The little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap’.  And we also salute Mark and Sally Smith of Memphis, who are coming to watch the shop for two weeks in April while we get our Christmas and birthdays 2012 and 2013/Valentine’s Day/fifteenth wedding anniversary holiday in. (We’re going to Istanbul. It’s expensive. We’ve been saving for months and we’re going to have the time of our lives.)

You’re going to love Big Stone, Mark and Sally, and they’re gonna love you. Our thanks to you all for keeping the shop while we’re running about promoting a book about bookstores. There’s a certain full-circle feel about it, don’t you think?

For more examples of how people have rallied to their community bookstores, check out the March 18 Christian Science Monitor article detailing bookstores that have been moved, staffed, or even cooked for by locals lending a hand. If you’re in Illinois (Edwardsville, to be precise) check out Afterwords Bookstore, a lovely shop with a similar story. Or ask your local bookshop about their ‘co-op’ friends. They’re guaranteed to have some.

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