Spellbound’s tiny back room, approximately 70 square feet serving simultaneously as stock room, break room, and broom closet, reached a breaking point last week. Or, rather, I did.
The phrase Where’s Waldo generally conjures searching for Waldo within a crowd favoring red and white striped garb. Not so for me this year. We have been running a Find Waldo Local event since they began, making this our sixth year, and I find myself looking for Waldo not in the pages of a book, but in our photo archives as I recollect all the DDG Waldos to wear the stripes. This is particularly true as July 4th rolls around. Our Waldo always marches in the Farmington July 4th parade. In fact we have two 2nd place ribbons to our credit. The parade is an awesome vehicle for distributing the passports. The DDG Waldo works the crowd, handing out hundreds of passports to the children lining the parade route, and does so in high style as our ribbons attest.
Yet the parade is just one of three DDG Waldo aspects. There is also July 31st party Waldo and around town delivering search items and collecting prizes from participating downtown merchants Waldo. Here then are our Where’s Waldos past and present.
We have a thriving birthday party business at our shop, both to the joy of our bookkeeper and the local bakery that supplies our cupcakes, but sometimes success is just, well, exhausting. We began offering parties when we moved to this location some 10 years ago, using our back room/event space/Lord-where-do-all-these-boxes-go? space. Over the years, this business has grown to a consistent weekend schedule, often hosting up to five frosting-filled celebrations in a weekend (followed by almost as many glasses of wine and a nap for yours truly).
Great book swag makes the world a better place, but it is an ephemeral and unforgiving art form to be sure. A good idea is required, but even if you have one of those there are still many ways to fail. Take this swag for the Alice in Wonderland themed Whatever After book, Abby in Wonderland.
“Are you eligible for any discounts today? Are you a teacher, or perhaps a grandparent?”
We train our staff at the store to begin each transaction with these phrases, both to underscore our commitment to local schools but also to politely sidestep the awkwardness of asking a customer if they are old enough to have grandchildren. The discount for grandma and grandpa is small — only 10% — but its acknowledgment almost always elicits a proud smile, and we follow up with a request to see pictures while we’re wrapping their gifts. There’s usually a rather complicated list: this group in Chicago, this bunch here in town, and one or two in…. somewhere too far away to see frequently. Often, too, there’s the grandchildren that live with just mom, or just dad, or some calendarized combination that also includes stepparents and their children, all of whom have birthdays and special days carefully noted.
“Elizabeth?” said my co-worker, Sandy’s, voice on the other end of the phone. “We have a bit of a situation.”
Every business owner dreads hearing those words, especially on her one day off a week.
While most people hail Saturdays as the start of their weekend, Wednesdays are mine. Occasionally I’ll agree to a sales meeting if I absolutely have to, but I usually try to hold that day sacred. Two weeks ago, I was feeling great on my “weekend” day: I’d just worked out and was having brunch with a friend at a new place about a half hour outside of town. That’s when the phone call came.
Over the last few months, Spellbound has been collaborating with one of our local independent toy stores on a series of workshops for kids called the Social Justice League. Some of the workshops are held at the toy store and some at the bookstore. It’s been a great way to introduce kids to ways they can make a difference and be better citizens. As a bonus, it’s also led to strengthening customer and community ties.
By now, halfway into the year, we booksellers have seen hundreds of advance reading copies for books, all of which try to stand out in a crowded field. We can’t read them all, so those opening lines can have a big impact. Obviously, we don’t choose books only based on first lines, or even first pages, but a great opener is like a promise to the reader: enter and ye shall be entertained.
What makes first lines exceptional? I admit that, for me, a not-young reader with thousands of books in my rear-view window, anything that takes me by surprise has special oomph. I appreciate freshness and authority, and style that stands out from less distinctive writing, and I appreciate first lines that immediately reveal character or situation or mood, or offer me surprise, dread, suspense, or humor.
Beth stopped by the shop this morning, carrying little Noah in the pumpkin seat, making him look much bigger (and heavier) than his two-month-old self. Ostensibly, she came for story time, but Noah snoozed through the whole experience, which was good, because judging from the circles under Beth’s eyes, he’s been up at night a bit. His mom comes in at least once a week—during her pregnancy, she would drop by after OB appointments just down the street, usually adding a board book or baby toy to her collection for their first child. Beth is an attorney, and plans to go back to work in another month, but she’s struggling with the decision already, and we spend a little time comparing childcare options and work-from-home realities. We end the visit with muffins and hugs for mom, and a furtive squeeze of one exposed little foot…. oh, baby toes.
It was time to come back for the second part of my favorite, and longest running, DDG school literacy project: the 11th annual Mrs. Perry’s Class ARC Review Project. Here are the kids reading the Advanced Readers’ Copies that I had delivered to them during part one.