Hello to friendships old and new! This is my first post for ShelfTalker, and I’m so pleased to be here. I’m writing today from the stockroom at 4 Kids Books, with an electric portable heater plugged in underneath my desk and a giveaway towel (promoting a beach book, obviously) wrapped around my shoulders like a shawl. Yep, that’s a typical spring week here in the heartland, where we ricochet from 60 degree days full of sunshine and kite sales to snow blowing under the store doorways, and hail warnings in between frequent power outages from high winds. We’re a hardy bunch, we midwesterners, and the daily weather eccentricities pale in comparison to what’s really important: March Madness and our college basketball pools.
By way of introduction, I’ll share that 4 Kids is both the name of the business and my primary qualification as a buyer and chief floor mopper. We started the store when our children were 9, 7, 5, and 1, tying the youngest one on in a baby wrap and learning that both returns and carpool can be planned with an Excel spreadsheet. Some (ahem) years later, the four kids in our name are 24, 22, 20 and (almost) 16, and while I’m no better at keeping returns on schedule, I have loved every minute of mixing management of a 3000 square foot store with family life and a continuing parade of fostered English Bulldogs (who I’m sure will appear in a later post, as they are both frequent store visitors and loud snorers). Well, maybe I haven’t LOVED every minute – look, the toilet has backed up again, and the freight company just called to say we’re getting a pallet in a half hour, and it’s snowing – but I love the daily mix and mayhem of it all.
All business owners claim to wear many hats, and we do, but I think that those of us in the children’s bookselling world have just a few more, and ours include fairy crowns and firefighter helmets. We wear aprons that have pockets full of sharpies and case cutters, but also hankies and lollipops and good luck trolls and a stray goldfish cracker or two. We wipe tears from both toddlers and tired moms, give high fives to teenagers with college acceptance letters and three-year-olds with successful potty training charts full of stars, and can recite both Newbery lists and Pokemon powers. We talk about choosing a kindergarten, a karate class, and a high school with three customers in a row as we wrap birthday presents for the weekend, slide that absolutely necessary book about bullying across the counter, and tuck the sign up sheet for spring break events in the bag. We are there for the duration of diapers to driver’s licenses, and often then hire those same kids and teach them about the world of work. If I do it right, hopefully they can learn that family, business, mission and community can all be one, big, slightly messy but always interesting career. I’m looking forward to sharing some of that mayhem with you, and help yourself to the goldfish crackers. Has anyone seen where I put my basketball bracket sheet?