When customers pop by the bookstore from their post-college life it’s always time to pull up a chair and really have a visit. I was lucky enough to have Allie and Shea come by first thing yesterday to say hello. Both these young women are 24 and are still best friends even though they live on opposite coasts. They always come by the store when they’re in town, but usually it’s just one of them. Having both together was a treat. Shea used to work for us and Allie said, “I grew up here.” They sat in the back with me for the first hour of a very slow Sunday. It was in this conversation that I learned more about what the store meant to them and I could easily see what great adults they’ve become.
Allie and Shea started coming to the store when we moved to Shelburne in 2006. Eager 14-year-olds, they would often come together and giggle as they poured over the fantasy section. Each was a strong reader and when Shea applied to work at the store a year later, we were blown away by her fabulous cover letter and pretty much hired her on the spot. Allie was quieter when she came in alone but slowly she and I became friends. Often we talk in hushed tones about her life and the challenges she was facing. One of the things that made me feel really good yesterday was both of them said as they were leaving, “Thanks for always being honest with us when we asked you stuff.”
The thing with owning a bookstore is the ripple effect, as I like to call it. This is what happens when a conversation in the store has a reach far larger than the walls of the store. Shea and Allie reminded me of that yesterday. What might seem like a casual conversation with a teenager about parental issues, schoolwork, or dating has a lasting, sometimes profound impact on their lives. I love that kids feel comfortable talking to us. The neighborhood bookstore should be a place of refuge for all who come in, and it’s nice to know that we’ve done that.
What’s lovely to see is how well these two young people have grown up. Allie is applying for PhD programs, having run a research lab since graduation. Shea took a big leap and moved to San Francisco and is pursuing her passion to work with animals. Both of these women spoke about how they’re financially independent and consequently their relationship with their parents has improved greatly. They are clear on their goals and work very hard towards them. They are realistic about their lives and where they want to live and where they can actually afford to live. These two women are likely to do amazing things, and I eagerly look forward to their next visit to the bookstore to find out what they’ve done next.