An Ode to Staff

Josie Leavitt - April 4, 2011

Mine is not a large store. I don’t have 60 full-time equivalents, like some big stores. Instead, I have five part-time staffers who work very hard to keep the store special. Every indie has its own feel, its own guiding principles as it were. From how customers are greeted to how we treat special orders, everything is uniquely Flying Pig. And these poor staffers work for a couple; Elizabeth and I have been together eighteen years and we often don’t need to speak to make suggestions, something our staffers find as irritating as it is sweet.
Among my staff I have a variety of voracious readers, some who like history, mysteries, some who oddly like pirate history books (and you know, there’s been a need for that more than once), great picture books, middle grade novels and young adults. Each staffer recommends books differently and those different styles are wonderful resources to my sometimes over-enthusiastic Tigger approach.  Some love to wrap, thank goodness, others love to return books, bless them, and others care about parts of the store I’ve ceased to see. This is a lovely combination. And, everyone gets along. I often walk in during lunch and see smiling staffers talking about books or their families.
As Elizabeth and I embarked on a week-long vacation, I only wished my house-sitter were as well rounded as my five staffers. There is something truly liberating about going away to a place where we had no cell reception, and I felt just fine about that. I trust my staff to take care of whatever comes their way.
I have made sure that I’ve paid the electric bill. Twice in the past when we’ve been at the airport, we’ve gotten a somewhat frantic call from a staffer stating that there was a man with a wrench about to turn the power off.  It seems in my zeal to go on my last two vacations I had neglected to pay the all-important power bill. Now I have it on auto-pay, so they should be in the light, able to sell books, and books I would never have thought of (that’s the real beauty of staffers: they introduce me to books I don’t know).
So we return with bags full of beach clothes and two paperback we traded for at the hotel (I’m in LOVE with Henning Mankell), no e-reader for me, sunscreen and a journal full of notes about the joy of relaxing and just not stressing about everything. I inhaled deeply every day and hoped that the only crisis I have to deal with is what to have for lunch: conch fritters or a flying fish sandwich. I will  think of my staff, and secretly I’ll do a little happy dance every day that I don’t have to deal with anything, because they’re taking care of everything.
The postcards that I wanted to send really all said the same thing: Thanks!

7 thoughts on “An Ode to Staff

    1. Josie Leavitt Post author

      I brought So Cold the River by Michael Kortya, Save the Cat by Blake Nelson (I’m taking a screenwriting class) and a journal. I never did pick the other two. But if I had limitless room in my luggage I would take Discovery of Witches. The hotel had a book exchange and that’s where the Henning Mankell love affair began: we’ll always have Tortola.

  1. Richard Sutton

    As an author with many, many years of experience in Mom&Pop Retail, I could really dig into your post. It is absolutely true, that nothing liberates like a great staff. Indie Booksellers, stand out among small retailers in that not only do they have the usual thin-pockets stresses everyday, they are also walking the tightrope delivered to them by the sea changes in the industry. All that juggling, skipping and dodging must leave you sore and tired and in need of a major re-charge. Clearly you’re doing a lot of things right. I suspect your store will be standing long after the dust settles, and still filled with customers.


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