Ah, Summertime

Josie Leavitt - July 14, 2011

The rain has finally stopped, for the most part, and the weather is better. This can only mean one thing: the summer visitors have arrived. These visitors come in three forms: the returning visitor who usually has a home here; the “passing through” tourist, who literally stumbles upon us; and finally the tourist who doesn’t stay in our area, but arranges their trip to stop at the store. Each member of these groups helps to contribute to making July and August the best sales months after December.
The returning visitors mark where we are in the summer. If I see the women from the Point’s book group, I know we’re into July and their amazing pace of reading a book a week has begun. There is a small island in Lake Champlain, Garden Island, off the Charlotte coast (just south of the store) that boosts a handful of houses and a customer who emails her orders a week ahead of her arrival. She comes in with her daughter who is now reading young adult books. They come the first day of vacation and buy about seven books per family member. It’s like they’re going to be at sea for months. I love it.
Some families are here the whole summer, and others spend a few days or weeks in town. All of them are good customers. We seem to pick up right where we left off the previous summer. Partly because we only see them for a few weeks, it’s really easy to see how much a child has grown as a person and changed as a reader. So last year’s early readers will now find middle grade recommendations coming her way.
The passing through tourist is the one who happens upon our store for the first time. I’m noticing this year that more and more of these customers do not have an independent bookstore where they live. This saddens me and makes me wonder what’s happening to the stores. I don’t dwell on that, though, choosing instead to focus on making their experience at my store special. You see, often the passing through tourist can become the type who arranges their vacation based on our hours.
We are blessed that Vermont is a place lots of people come to visit. My job as a bookseller is to make people want to come back to my store whenever they’re in the area. We had a woman who would come every year to visit her uncle in New Hampshire. Sarah would plot out her trip to work with our hours. She was always a huge collector of children’s books. Her girlfriend worked at a bank and she would convert all her spare change into two dollar bills. Sarah would then take her currency to the bookstore and spend all her two dollar bills. One year she spent $1,500 on books and paid for all of them with two dollar bills. Sadly, her uncle passed away and her travels don’t bring her to Vermont anymore.
There’s one more category of customer that I love to see: the regular customer who actually has more time to read. These are the folks who always buy one book at time during the rest of the year. But summer allows them to indulge in buying the stacks of books they’re always holding back on. There is a glee to these purchases. Passionate readers with more time on their hands is a lovely thing to see.
I look forward to every summer day because of the old friends I’ll get to see and the new friends I’ll get to make.

3 thoughts on “Ah, Summertime

  1. Carol B. Chittenden

    It’s even more intense here on Cape Cod, where July and August both outstrip December. And we LOVE it! Busy days into evenings of greeting old friends, watching the kids who are taller each year, or bursting for us to ask what college they’ve chosen, or — now that we’ve crossed the 25-year line — new generations. It gives us both the wherewithal and the encouragement to forge ahead into the fall — and look forward a little wistfully to the oh-so-quiet weeks of January, February, March, April, May… with the knowledge that we’ll be able to make payroll then, if just barely.
    One of the joys of a business that goes on for a few years is learning the annual cycles, and greeting each turn of the wheel afresh. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Meggie

    We came through Vermont three years ago now, and when I found out where your store was located, I was really really upset that we hadn’t stumbled upon it, because I love indies, and we have none within two hours’ drive of our house.
    And if we ever head back up that way again, I will definitely petition to arrange a visit to the store. 😀

  3. jo

    Thank you. I am an avid reader of ShelfTalker. Your ‘Ah, Summertime’ post
    brought tears to my eyes. Reminded me of the simple pleasures of reading.
    Well done.


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