Bookstore Dreams

Elizabeth Bluemle - October 14, 2009

“It’s always been a dream of mine to open a bookstore.” We must hear this two or three times a week, sweetly confessed by starry-eyed book lovers. I don’t have the heart to tell them that, when you do have a bookstore, your dreams — the real ones, the nightly ones — change just a tad.

Here are a few recurring highlights from actual dreams Josie and I have had over the years:

The store is full of customers, you’re alone, and the cash register and POS system aren’t working.

The sections have all been moved; in fact, they’re changing while you look at them.

Your store is suddenly outside.

You’ve had to move your store from a great location to a lousy one, and grieve.

You need to get to work and can’t find your store in the strange city you suddenly find yourself in.

You’re trying to get to work, but the elevator you step into goes sideways, at a fast clip, in the opposite direction of where you need to be.

Your store layout has become a honeycomb of little rooms with organization that makes no sense and bad lighting.

You discover a whole sales floor’s worth of overstock you have to deal with.

The sales meeting you’re in lasts a full week.

There’s an angry customer at the counter demanding the book he’s been waiting for — for eight months.

You’ve got a huge line at the register and you’ve forgotten how to type.

You have all new staff members you don’t know, and they just stand around chatting while customers stream by, needing help.

Suddenly you can’t remember a single Dr. Seuss title.

You’ve just recommended a bunch of perfect books to a teen, only to find you’re out of all of them. (Oh wait, that wasn’t a dream. That just happened on Friday.)


After thirteen years in this changeable business, when people tell me “I’d like to open a bookstore when I retire,” I just smile and say, “Good luck with that. It’s a beautiful dream.”

9 thoughts on “Bookstore Dreams

  1. EM

    See, this is why my bookstore-owning dreams are always preceded by my lottery-winning dreams. If you don’t have to worry about making money, surely the other problems are easier to deal with? 🙂

  2. Carol Chittenden

    One of our former staff had recurring nightmares in which she tried to ring sales but all the inventory entries were things like “over easy” and “rare, medium, well-done.” Mine are all about trying desperately to remember the titles that go with a blue cover, or where the child’s name is Jesse. Ah yes: owning a bookstore is a wake-up call if ever there was one. And now back to learning more HTML…

  3. Sandy

    Great post! I’ve actually had the first and last happen to me, and several of the others have happened in dreams (nightmares?). Here’s another dream I’ve had a few times–which ought to feel satisfying, but instead makes my stomach churn: An angry customer is yelling at me about something I’ve done wrong, and I yell right back at them! Then there’s the one where dozens of loud, rude children are running around, behind the counter, tearing books off the shelves willy-nilly. *shudder*

  4. elizabeth o. dulemba

    Ha! Although the moving sections sounds like a groovy Hogwarts kind of thing. I suppose every career brings a new set of anxiety dreams. I just added a new one to my repertoire: I’m 30 minutes late to a speaking engagement onstage during a book festival. And I arrive to discover, not only am I late, I’m at the wrong stage – the correct one is a 1/2 hour away by car and I have no idea how to get there. Ugh! {8-P e

  5. Spellbound

    Do you ever get the “You stole my dream” version from customers? People sometimes tell me,almost accusingly, of how they’d planned to do this one day, as if I’ve intentionally thwarted their plans. I’ve never quite known how to respond to that one…

  6. Britbookworm

    Me too, another starry eyed book lover who dreams of having a bookstore. Have thought about it and have decided to start my own small self publishing business in the meantime. Has anyone tried that yet? would be curious as to how it went…..


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