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Thursday, November 5, 2020

Hello and Goodby! Coming and Going!


And no, I do not mean presidents! Don't you want a break? I sure do, so while we're waiting for the count, I'm stealing some bookstore news -- "industry" news, it might be called in other lines of work -- from articles in today's “Shelf Awareness” newsletter. 


Countless events take place in the world without generating screaming headlines. Comings and goings of indie bookstores take place all the time across America, whether you see them happening or not. How many times have visitors from elsewhere come through my bookstore door exclaiming that there’s nothing like Dog Ears where they live – or, more often, bemoaning the disappearance of bookstores in general. And yet, while it’s true that somewhere a bookstore is always closing, it’s also true that somewhere else a new one is opening. Statistics for openings vs. closures would be interesting to see, but every story is particular, as every independent bookstore’s identity is individual and personal.


So here are a couple of stories, but keep in mind that every week there are more stories like these:


New kid on the block: I’d love to pop in for a visit at the new Beausoleil Books in Lafayette, Louisiana. The only time I was ever in that town, I was delighted to find it (much more than New Orleans) a true francophone community, so a bookstore in town stocking French books along with English titles seems long overdue. Among Lafayette’s other charms: how many universities do you know with an alligator pond behind the Student Union? ("Pond" not at all the word I want, but I'm drawing a blank here. Help!) And dancing, every evening, all ages, to live Cajun music between dinner and sensible early bedtime. Road trip, road trip! Beausoleil Books, we wish you un succès fou!


Veteran’s farewell: On a sad note, however, the Book Nook in Monroe, Michigan, is closing its doors forever after December holidays, the “heartbroken” owner writing sadly on her Facebook page that after 50 years of weathering challenges from the Internet in general, the Online Behemoth in particular, and a fire next door, she has finally made the tough decision not to go "further into debt.” She adds bluntly (speaking of presidents), “I don't think it is ‘smart’ to not pay my share of taxes or file bankruptcy or stiff local vendors. I wasn't raised that way.”


My heart goes out to honest, hardworking bookseller Janet Berns, who asks for patience from her customers at this time when her emotions “are running the gamut from sadness and despair to anger and frustration to nausea and grief.” I can imagine myself in her shoes, with that roiling stew of feelings, and I hope her next chapter will have the brightness and rewards she has certainly earned after a half-century in her bookstore!


And so it goes. They come, they go, and nothing is forever. 

Some booksellers, of course, look forward to retirement. Book Nook owner Janet, though, was clearly not ready, and that troubles my heart.


Remember Tinker Belle? If children no longer believed in fairies, she would die, but if enough believers clapped their hands, she would live?  With bookstores, clapping your hands and saying you love them isn't enough. Only sales pay the bills -- another case of actions showing much more convincingly than words what people believe in and value. So to all who have kept Dog Ears Books solvent for over 27 years, please know that I appreciate each and every single one of you and look forward to picking up again in the spring in Northport for what I hope will be a busy, happy, healthy 2021 season. 

Meanwhile, be safe, stay healthy, keep reading -- and remember to shop local with my literary colleagues at Leelanau Books in Leland, Bay Books in Suttons Bay, Cottage Book Shop in Glen Arbor, Horizon Books in Traverse City, and Landmark Books in Traverse City. And if you must shop online, try alternatives to the Online Behemoth

Thank you, all you reader customer friends, for your support! You keep us going!



BB-Idaho said...

I was pondering whether your Winter will be a Michigan or Arizona time? Always a strong supporter of local business, I was disappointed when our indie bookstore closed 18 years back. The
attraction of doing local business is the close connection between
buyer and seller. Along those lines, ever curious, I was wondering if you ever had customer wanting to return a book because, "I didn't like the ending." :)

P. J. Grath said...

That particular thing hasn't happened to me yet, Bob, but more than once I have warned people (giving my reasons) that I didn't care for a book they were about to buy. Sometimes the person heeded my warning, other times the response was, "I'll take a chance," and it was fine with me either way. I can never "push" a book I don't believe in. Of course, I have not read every book. And also, tastes and interests vary, so what bores me might well fascinate someone else.

Dawn said...

I have a friend from library school that opened a book store, The Book Nook, in Saugatuck a couple years ago. I keep meaning to get over there. And did you see the piece on Sunday Morning yesterday about independent bookstores? I'm sure it's somewhere online.

Dawn said...

Here you go:

P. J. Grath said...

Dawn, thanks! I just found your comments this morning. (On the road, I don't always keep up on a daily basis.)

Yes, it has been rough. Dog Ears Books has a devoted and loyal core group of customers and wouldn't have made it this far without them. We also have a very wonderful and understand landlady, who gave us a break on rent last spring when we couldn't open on time. Finally, I have a little life insurance from my mother. One year at a time. What 2021 will bring is anyone's guess! But I believe in the value of books and bookstores, and believing in one's work is a priceless job benefit.

Jeanie Furlan said...

Pamela! It’s so good to read about book 📖 stores, and see the comings and goings. Here in São Paulo we’ve seen what you described: some closings but others, opening. We found a small one on a walk, a nice surprise! I’ve enjoyed B. Catton’s Waiting...Morning Train & B. Jo Campbell’s Once...River sent by our daughter. Thanks for those Michigan-based wonderful book recommendations!

P. J. Grath said...

Bean! I am so glad you liked a couple of my favorite Michigan books. Now you need to read SOUTH OF SUPERIOR, by Ellen Airgood, one I've read half a dozen times.

Glad you found a little bookstore on your walk. Hooray!