It’s cheery to see Christmas lights at the bakery and all the cars lined up outside Jeanette Egeler’s new Northport Fitness Center. The old Fitness Center up the hill has also re-opened, more expensive than downtown ($70 vs. $40/month) but with swimming pool for exercise and therapy. Things are, you see, still happening in Northport, even as the snow deepens, and I do like to stay upbeat in these pages, but--there’s no denying that the whole world these days is facing a hard row to hoe.
So, yes, uncertainty infects more than the book world, but it’s news of the book world that I receive every morning in the e-mailed newsletter “Shelf Awareness,” each new issue bringing more stories of bookstore closings. Today three such reports came from the South: 1) A Louisiana bookseller closing up shop had been in business 16 years. (Dog Ears Books will be 16 in July 2009.) 2) Another store owner in Alabama, throwing in the towel, had been disappointed when a hotel and casino planned for downtown did not come about to revitalize business. (Northport’s downtown is on a modest upswing, but state and national trends are going against us.) 3) In Georgia, a 90-year-old book dealer, in business for 40 years, is selling his stock at “almost giveaway prices.” (Is this what it comes down to in the end?) Yes, new bookstores are opening, too. Hope springs eternal, because dreams never die. And in the middle, neither giving up or just starting out, are those of us whose dreams have been tempered by reality but who carry on nevertheless, too stubborn to give up our passion.
A couple of Vermont booksellers are going the extra mile to get out the “Shop Local Business” message:
"The message is simple: support your locally owned independent business," said [Chris] Morrow [of Northshire Bookstore]. "Where you spend your money has a tremendous impact on what happens in our community. Decisions are made locally by people who are on your volunteer boards, running your Little League--it's not corporate headquarters somewhere closing a store so x number of people lose their jobs and there's a big vacant building. Since the economic collapse, people are seeing how important it is to build local resilience."
"People are getting the message," added Steve Eddy, owner of Book King, Rutland, "but I'm so enthusiastic about it, I explain it to them whether they want to hear it or not."
As I prepare my ad for the 2009 Northport High School yearbook, I muse on the roots my little business has put down in this community.
Here’s the scoop on Dog Ears Books this winter: The bookstore will be open through the December holidays, Tuesdays through Saturdays, with almost every book in stock reduced 20%. That includes (with only three exceptions) shiny, beautiful new books on the shelves and tables! I wanted to make holiday shopping on Waukazoo Street attractive this year (books are more frugal and easier to wrap than a ski vacation for the family in Vail), but the sale will also extend clear to the end of the year for those with Christmas and Hanukkah gelt to burn.
Then, after the new year, Dog Ears will be on “vacation” for three months--not because your local bookseller has gotten so rich in Northport that she’s taking off on a Caribbean cruise but because the cost of winter utilities has not been covered by sales for the last two years, and I can’t afford to squander my hard-earned summer profits. I’ll write blog postings as often as possible (perhaps “Books in Northport on the Road”); the main assignment I’m giving myself for the weeks away, however, is to finish a first draft of a YA (young adult) novel, begun longer ago than I even want to admit.
In April, the doors will re-open, and we’ll have a big, fun book launch party for Ed and Connie Arnfield’s lovely new Roadside Guide to Michigan Plants, Trees, and Flowers: An Ecological Approach, published by Arbutus Press, a wonderful kick-off to the 2009 season. Could there be a better way to start the new bookstore year? I don’t think so!