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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2 Comments

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

2 responses to “A Little Help from our Friends

  1. afterwordsbooks

    Indeed! Thank you so much for the nod in our direction. We are so very, very fortunate to house our little bookstore in such a big-hearted community! The shop local movement is stronger than ever as our community understands the value of the small, independent businesses.
    There’s a growing consciousness of the importance of each individual commitment to nurture the community, to see their tax dollars directly benefit their towns, that culture and diversity are meaningful, that it’s their neighbors who are all working together to make a difference.
    We understand that the folks who make up our bookstore family could buy goods and services at the big box stores for significantly less, but we’re fortunate in that more and more people truly understand that the few dollars it seems they are saving at face value are not worth the compromise to the vitality of their community.

  2. I love that you guys are cooperatively minded like this. It’s this creative, community spirit that makes independent businesses so very special. Enjoy your well-deserved vacation, and come back with grand stories for us!

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