Tag Archives: independent bookstores

Organizing the Westerns

westernAbout a week ago I realized that our Mancave needed cleaning. We call this the Guys with Big Guns sections, housing Westerns and War novels. It was dusty and hadn’t been culled or realphabzetized in some time.

Dealing with Guys with Big Guns is not something we as Quakers want to spend our time doing.  Although we don’t read these genres, we certainly sell a lot of them, so last Saturday, there was nothing for it but to bite the bullet and move in.

It’s enough to make a bookslinger cynical, I tell ya. First of all, the  expressions on the faces of the cover art guys are the same (grimacing with determination). Also their posture: they lean into the action but slightly away from the gun. Yes, they’re all holding guns, but here’s where it differs. Western guys hold six-shooters (I think) while the War people vary: post-apocalytpic weapon of choice is a Bazooka. Go figger. The spy guy  ranges from little pistol-ma-bobs to those huge rifle-esque guns you see flashed from the backs of Toyotas in countries where things are not going well.

Guns I don’t know much about; the alphabet I can handle. That’s what I was trying to do, organizing them by author. Some, like Terry or William Johnston(e) or good ol’ Louis L’Amour, move fast. Others go at about the speed of cattle crossing the Great Plains. So it’s important to keep them sorted, but at a certain point, whether First-time Author Hoping to Break Into the Genre or whoever is covering L’Amour these days wrote Shootout at Wherever gets old. Did you know that about half of all Western titles start with Shootout, Gunfight, or Crossing? Go ahead, check it out.

It seems to me that Westerns are Romance for Men. In fact, I once put a bunch of Native American romances back there in the mancave, mixed in with the other Shooters, and sure enough, they got scooped up. A word to whoever is designing the covers: a girl with big heaving bosoms and a guy with gritty determination in his eyes will do; you really don’t have to worry about anything else. Near as I can tell, in the Westerns she heaves in the background as the guy covers her with his big gun, while in the Romances she heaves in the foreground as the guy, again…. Anyway, you get the (cover) picture.

It took several hours, but our Westerns and War sections are now relatively dust-free. Jack did suggest I leave a bit, for atmosphere. “Guys want a little True Grit,” said my husband.

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, post-apocalypse fiction, publishing, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table, writing

In Which Maeve is Elected Spokeskitten

HI ever’body! My name’s Maeve an’ I’m the smartest one in my family. That’s why they ‘lected me spokeskitten. That an’ I sat on Mack until he gave in. I’m bigger’n he is.

Me an’ my two brothers an’ two sisters are all waitin’ to get doppled. That’s when a family decides they wanna keep house for you forever so you go live with them an’ they look after you. There’s lots to eat an’ the rooms are always the right temperatures. It’s very nice, I hear.

Mack, Malcolm, Merina, Mia an’ me, we all got borned a little while ago but our mom was a street cat. We were lucky when a nice lady took us in an’ let us all get borned in her house, since it was really cold outside. Then she got in touch with some people called Apple-latching Pee-line Friends….. uh wait, could you ‘scuse me a sec, please?

whispered consultation in kitten huddle

Kay, we think that’s Apple-latching Feline Friends, like the fancy name for cats. Yeah. An’ the Apple people, they found us this nice bookstore to stay in, an’ took us to the doctor – which didn’t hurt much, but Mia bawled like a baby–DID TOO. An’ the doctor said we were very healthy an’ the cleanest street kittens she’d seen in a long time. Mom was really proud of that.

We left Mom at the hospital ’cause she needs to rest. She had to give us a lot of milk when we were babies, so she’s still there, but she says that’s fine, she knows the people here are takin’ good care of us. She says she’s just gonna lie around an’ eat an’ read some magazines for awhile. I don’t think she’s plannin’ on comin’ to the bookstore.

But that’s okay, there’s PLENTY to do here. We gots this great big cat tree, an’ a cushion we bounce on, an’ a table with little sticky-out legs we can climb. Ever’ day people come in an’ there’s new feet to ride! It’s great here!

We know we’re gonna leave here sometime soon an’ get our perma- per- furrever homes. So we’re double lucky. But the people who look after us say that’s ’cause we’re double cute. We’ve all got white toes an’ stripey noses an’ big eyes.

Our foster mom says people are specially glad to see us now ’cause they’re sick of politics. I dunno for sure, but I think politics is what they put in the bowl for us, all chopped up an’ wet and meaty. But it smells so great, I dunno why people don’t like politics.

If you wanna meet us, me an’ Mia are twins with the gopher stripe, and the boys have tabby coats an’ look just alike, an’ then Merina wears a tux. It’s easy to tell us apart once you know how. Or you can dopple two of us an’ it won’t matter.

C’mon down an’ visit. We look forward to meetin’ you an’ we always like a new pair of feet to ride on!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Wendy Welch

A guest blog from TWO BEARS FARM

This blog is from Lisa, who blogs at twobearsfarm.com, about her visit to our bookshop. Thank you, Lisa!

A while ago my mom loaned me a book called The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap.  A memoir, it sat on my bookshelf for a while before I read it and discovered it was so much better than I ever expected.  I fell in love with the quirky used bookstore in Big Stone Gap, and suggested to my parents (who both enjoyed the book, too) that we go there.

Big Stone Gap is waaaaayyyy down in the deep southwest of the state.  It took us a while to get there.  On the way we stopped at a farm to table restaurant in Meadowview called Harvest Table where I got the best grilled chicken sandwich ever.  I never even knew chicken could taste like that. On homemade focaccia with a remoulade sauce, it was the most tender, most flavorful chicken in existence.  If you are ever out that way (and you probably won’t be), be sure to stop in.

Eventually, we made it to Big Stone Gap, deep in the Appalachian mountains.  The bookstore didn’t disappoint.   The boys had a blast exploring all the rooms and carrying around the six (!) foster kittens in residence.  We all found a few books we needed.

On the way home we took a little detour through Lebanon so I could see the area where my grandfather’s family lived.  I enjoyed seeing his old stomping ground, imagining him as a young boy there with his siblings.

It was a lot of driving for one day, but included unique experiences, and I got to see some beautiful areas of the state I had never seen before.  Plus, that chicken sandwich?  Totally worth seven hours of driving.

Readers – have you ever gone out of your way to see a place from a book or a movie?

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, VA, Wendy Welch, YA fiction

A Story within a Story within a Signature

Wendy is on a tight writing deadline before holidays next week, so Jack takes up the keyboard and presents this guest blog.

We often have folk come in to ‘Tales of the Lonesome Pine’ bookstore carrying a copy of ‘The Little Bookstore’ and hoping to meet Wendy. They come from all over the country and even from other countries. Their personal tales frequently carry on a theme of the book, that the customers’ stories are as important as those in the books we sell.

One of the other conversations in Wendy’s book was about the fact that some products that are sold on from one owner to another only benefit the creator the first time they’re sold – houses, books etc. The result of the exchange was that there wasn’t much to be done about it, nor should there be. Another question was how long  ‘The Little Bookstore’ would circulate in used book stores.

To our great amusement we received a lovely card from a fan in New York a couple of months after the first publication, saying how much he’d enjoyed the book and that he’d bought it for $10 in a used book store. He enclosed a $10 bill just to prove that the author was wrong!

But today topped that. (Drum roll, please….)

Three couples had been through the store today looking for Wendy, so when I looked out the window and saw a woman holding a copy of the book and the husband taking pictures, I knew what they were about. Sure enough, Carol and Paul were on a trip back to Cary, NC and came the long way through Big Stone Gap to see the bookstore because they loved the book and follow Wendy’s blog.

However, their story had a twist. Carol loved Wendy’s book, which she’d paid $5.99 for in a used book store, already signed to someone called Laura. And she’d come to get Wendy to sign it again, having read the conversations about second hand books in Little Bookstore.

We had a lovely chat (they are also cat lovers) and then I signed her copy and so did Wendy – but check out the picture to see how she did it.

carol

May the circle be unbroken, Laura – wherever you are!

 

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A Little Ditty about a Ditzy Moment

crazy bookstoreFor some reason our bookstore FB page’s banner photo has been attracting attention again. Granted, it is a weird photo, and my favorite story about it used to be that it featured a national Korean magazine story about it. So over in Korea, people now think they know SW VA based on this photo. Think about it……

But this is my new favorite response. Our own local poet and part-time bookstore employee James Ryan penned this as a photo caption:

THE BOOKSTORE

Here’s just a little jingle
About a place to mingle
When your mind is tired and sore
There’s a quiet place
And a smiling face
At Tales of The Lonesome Pine Bookstore

You can pet a cat
Now imagine that
‘Til you are thoroughly smitten
You’ll find that adoption
Is a really good option
For that cute and playful kitten

You can find a book
In some bright nook
Or is it maybe a cranny
It’s a wonderful place
For the whole human race
You can even bring your Granny

If you’re in the mood
For some home-made food
Just visit our crowning glory
Because it’s really neat
To sit and eat
In the Café on the second story

The bookstore opens at ten
Tuesday thru Saturday is when
And the café opens at eleven
If your time allows
You can eat then browse
In our little slice of Heaven

So please come sit
And share your wit
With anyone who has time to do it
It’s a marvelous bookstore
And I’ll tell you what’s more
That’s our tale and we’re sticking to it

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

In Which Jack Pontificates on Customer Service

Jack’s weekly guest blog traces the odd path from management guru to bookseller

It’s funny the things that come into your mind!

Way back when, I was working in my college in Scotland at a time when ‘Heid Bummers’ (Principal and Depute Principal) were under pressure to flatten the rather hefty management hierarchy and make things more dynamic. They set out to radically restructure the staffing, and for some reason they had been watching me and decided that I had a much more ‘collegiate’ model for working with my colleagues than the rest of the staff in my department. Thus I was appointed Head of Department and told to “make them more collegiate.” After a couple of rocky years, things settled down and I’m proud to say that I eventually won everyone round to my way of working.

Some years later I wound up teaching management courses and ultimately studied for, and gained my MBA from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh. As part of those studies, of course, I did a lot of research into organizational structures, management styles, team dynamics, marketing and motivational theories.

Now, anyone who has read ‘The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap’ will be wondering how on earth I could think of getting involved in starting our bookstore and even more how we could have made a success of it, given what I’ve described above. But there were some insights I could bring and that we have put into practice. Probably the main one is that the customer is absolutely the first priority, come what may.

I was pondering this today for some reason and found myself picturing a continuum with high staff convenience at one end and high customer convenience at the other and contemplated where we might fit along that line.

Wendy and I had noticed, when we first came here, that businesses in small towns sometimes open and close very randomly on a whim; they might have opening hours posted but you could never be sure until you tried the door. We could never understand this when we visited such places, as it seemed crazy to us. When our chef par-excellence Kelley had to close the café this week to go to Chicago to help her sister recover from surgery, she made sure that all her customers and potential customers knew well ahead of time, and I’m very pleased to say that so far there have been no disappointed regulars.

It’s important to make sure that we are open when we say we will be, so we have both short term and long term ‘shop-sitters’ to ensure that. Everyone who comes through the door is treated with value and respect; we order books for customers when they aren’t in stock, repair battered family Bibles that are family heirlooms and don’t mind if folk just come in for a chat.

So where would be positioned along the line? Of course we’d like to think we’re at the customer focused end, but it’s really difficult to know. There are lots of different factors that can affect the continuing success of a small business in this part of the world – people move in and out of town, the economy takes a dip, a local clique decides to attack, etc.

But one thing I’m certain of – it’s all about the customers!

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The State we’re (not quite) in.

Jack’s guest blog post is a little late this week –

In the middle of all the hoo-ha in NC just now with big music stars cancelling appearances in protest against the so-called religious freedom legislation, I noticed an appeal by Malaprops bookstore. An author scheduled to do a signing had cancelled and they argued that he should have come and shown solidarity with a business that opposed the new law.

I suppose because it is one of our favorite bookstores (and Wendy has done a signing there herself) it made me pay a bit more attention to the question.

Of course this has nothing to do with religious freedom and everything to do with blind prejudice.

It’s ironic that many of the early European settlers braved a dangerous journey across the Atlantic in small sailing ships in order to escape prejudice. Over time, of course, it would be their descendants who would revert to putting up the shutters against Irish, Italians, Japanese, Jews, Mexicans, Hispanics etc., etc. You don’t have to dig too far into that list to see religious overtones either.

The worst example, and its legacy is still with us, is color prejudice – something so deeply rooted that I fear it will take many generations to completely die out.

A further irony is that one of the things that makes the United States distinctive in the world is its culture – the art, music, dance and storytelling traditions that mix and blend threads from all the individual cultures of the incomers along with the Native Americans who were already here.

It’s the artists who are in the vanguard of this latest battle and I salute their integrity in the face of this degrading, politically populist and downright rabble-rousing move. Wendy and I love Asheville and visit the city frequently to enjoy its cafes, shops and very European atmosphere. It’s very hard to believe what’s going on in the state as you wander through its downtown mingling with the street musicians, mime artists, dog walkers et al.

And, what of Malaprops’ cancelled signing? For what it’s worth I think that got more attention than a few words on the day would have.

 

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Filed under bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch