The day before this post begins, as is recorded here, I had employed some dark magic to summon a mighty gift wrapper from afar, using grammarie to call her forth from retirement. When the store opened there was no sign as to whether my efforts had been fruitful or vain. Suddenly, at 10:12, our reams of wrapping paper began to shake on their cutters, lightly at first and then approaching a frenetic tenor. The door opened of its own accord and Carol Chittenden, the mighty founder of Eight Cousins, walked across the store’s threshold. The spell had worked.
Carol dove in, sharing her ribbon lore with Hannah…
Revealing unexpected uses for DDG stickers.
Staffers like Eliot were not only edified concerning wrap, but appareled in it.It was, in short, tremendous fun having Carol at the store for two days. I asked her to share her thoughts, warts and all, on being in an alien store during the holiday rush. Here’s Carol!
You won’t be surprised to hear that Kenny’s store reflects a gigantic literary appetite, along with enthusiasm for playful sidelines, and a near-universal acquaintance with the customers. Of every 10 customers who come through the door, I estimate that eight are greeted by name. After the customer service rendered by Kenny, Karin, Hannah, Faith and Eliot, chances are the other two will soon be on a first-name basis as well.
That’s probably because everything about the store says, in various voices, “genuine article.” In an era of hot air, puffery, and empty hype, everything at DDG gives the message of solid, down to earth, real: real fun, real ideas, real help with finding the right book. The customers, in their layered wool, feathers, boots, and hat hair (it’s only 10 degrees out) appear equally genuine. Everyone seems to understand that having a lively independent bookstore in a town of 7,000 (including enrollment at the local state university) is a tough but worthwhile goal, and a blessing the community doesn’t wish to squander.
Were I actually on staff, I would lobby for squandering a bit here and there: more ribbon colors, for one thing: I have my priorities. Possibly I’d encourage updating some of the wall décor. I’d want to reorganize the cash wrap area to help it work harder for convenience and sales, including a counter height wrapping area with room for more colors of ribbon. I would NOT change the tasteful classic jazz that plays instead of bottled Christmas muzak. But I’d watch the budget closely to see if it would be possible to take out splinter liability insurance on some of the older fixtures, once I had more ribbon colors. Since Kenny is always at one of the two counter computers, ready to respond to questions, juggling orders, writing blogs, I’d take over his office space, and turn it into a coat check room for the burdened Mainers; also ribbon backstock, and sales rep hospitality area. I’d look for coop ad money for a new door mat at the front entrance. I’d retire the most taped and re-taped cardboard dumps. I’d never be able to work out such clever, mutually beneficial arrangements with area schools as Kenny has done, unless it would be to put a bow on visiting authors. But I wouldn’t go overboard on the gift-wrapping enhancements: even if ribbon (all colors!) is cheap, the paper and staff time are not, and the competition is nil on that score. And I wouldn’t change one single thing if it meant impinging on the superb selection of carefully chosen books. It’s been a privilege and pleasure to wrap and hang out in their presence.