Recipe for a Happy Store
Elizabeth Bluemle - November 14, 2019
In a week and a half, on November 23rd—the very day that children’s book legends Susan Cooper and Steven Kellogg are scheduled to grace the store for an author event, in fact—the Flying Pig will turn 23 years old.
It’s hard to believe we’ve been around that long, although many betraying silver strands in my brown hair say otherwise. My then-partner Josie Leavitt and I were just 32 years old on that chilly but exciting opening day, and we had only been in Vermont for five months. The bookstore was an impulse, a potential hobby (ha!) we would run while pursuing our creative writing.
Nearly a quarter of a century later, here we are, a few miles north of where we started and still part of a vibrant, connected community. We’ve had the great good fortune of being part of our customers’ lives, seeing children grow up and bring in children of their own, seeing friends and neighbors through difficult times in their lives, and sometimes saying goodbye, always too soon. It’s an honor to be a longtime staple in a community. People trust us with confidences and questions, worries and wonders, deep sorrows and great joys. Bookstores are special places, and while bookselling is a questionable business (financially speaking), it is a wonderful vocation.
Recently, a customer was talking about wanting to open a bookstore someday when her children are grown, and she jokingly asked me for the ‘recipe.’ So here, for anyone wanting this grand experience, here’s what you need:
One (1) bookstore, any size
Books, hand-picked for freshness and maturity (include about 50 sq. ft. more books than you have space for)
Several lbs. of Staff (some raw, some seasoned)
Customers, ideally with no spoiled spots
Heaping bowls-ful of book love and expertise
Treats (for dogs and people), including biscuits, chocolate (people only), stickers, pencils, bookmarks
Temporary babysitting services (for parents)
Bathroom (for all)
1-2 tons humor
Cheer (see directions for specifics)
A dash or more of optimism, depending on altitude
A pinch of ignorance for added spice
Set the table to include as many as possible, with an eye toward a variety of tastes. Select staff and books with care. This requires ongoing attention and adjustments, as ingredients are added and subtracted regularly. Baste customers as desired with book knowledge, good humor. Sprinkle cheer as desired; some customers are allergic. Watch carefully to ensure the right mix; too much of any ingredient can unbalance the recipe. Let cook. Serve generously, preferably for many, many years.
Happy early birthday to The Flying Pig!!!
Thanks, Suzette! Hard to believe!
Elizabeth, congratulations on the longevity of your store! I have been at The Toadstool Bookshop in Milford, NH just about the same number of years, I guess. I remember fondly all the NECBA meetings we attended and all your prior columns here. I have learned much from you. Your Recipe brought such pleasure. I think I was smiling all through the reading! May you have many more wonderful years at The Flying Pig, and may your community continue to realize what a gem they have in your shop.
Sue Carita, The Toadstool Bookshop, Milford, (newly moved to Nashua).
Thanks so much for your lovely words, Sue! I remember you — and those meetings — so well. I miss those days and the booksellers who have retired, too (Chitts, I’m looking at you, kid). Nice to hear from you again!