I know I often write about the seasonal changes I feel at the bookstore. These are not weather-driven, but people-driven. I only see certain people during certain seasons. Summer is the time when I see the most people for the briefest amount of time.
Our town is nestled right next to Lake Champlain, and Charlotte, our old town, has camps, as they’re called are beautiful houses right on the lake. These camps, on Thompson’s Point, are only lived in between May and October, but generally they aren’t full until the weather is warm enough to not need heat at night, as none of the camps are properly insulated or have a means to heat. So, June into July is when folks start streaming into the store.
I love that these visitors make it a point to stop at the store and let us know they’re here. Some folks are here for a week, some are here for the summer. One customer lives in Cape Town, South Africa and she announces her arrival every year by emailing a list of books she’d like us to have on hand for her when she arrives. I got the email Monday. She wants a book by Sarah Churchwell. I’ve ordered it and it should be here when she comes to the store. Kathryn has been shopping with us since 1998 when she and her husband first came back to Charlotte from London, where they met. He attended Middlebury College and went to work overseas.
The first time they came they had their little girl, Alice, who was all of two and a half. She asked oh so politely, “Where’s the loo?” and I’ve loved her ever since. Subsequently, they’ve had two more children and each is just as delightful. This family could shop anywhere, and yet, year after year, they start their vacation with us. To be part of a vacation preparation list is pretty awesome.
Other vacationers give us their whole summer’s book group picks. One group, again on Thompson’s Point, reads a book a week. They email us the list right after their first meeting the first week of July. We stock their books and even create a shelf for them, so they can more easily find all the books they’ll be reading during the summer.
We sometimes take our seasonal customers for granted. We just always expect them to be there. Two years in a row, Kathryn and her family didn’t come to the store, and I was practically bereft. I had come to count on their arrival to somehow complete my summer and without them, it felt strange. Sometimes kids no longer vacation here because they’ve gone to college out west and stayed. I miss these kids. I always love getting caught up on the past year’s activities and changes. The customers who always stun me are the ones who plan their road trip to coincide with our open hours. They come in, usually with lists at the ready, and stock up for the rest of their journey.
These people shop at bookstores all over the country during the summer. These book lovers understand the value of indies and how we can enrich their lives. But what they might not know is how much they enrich our lives.