It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Josie Leavitt - May 24, 2012

I have talked a lot about community in ShelfTalker, and usually I mean the community of the bookstore, our customers specifically. But as an owner of a business in a village, I have a whole other community available to me, the one made up of other businesses.
Our village is small. It’s really only two streets with just over a dozen other businesses and restaurants. I couldn’t live without many of these people. They make my life richer because they are independent retailers who are deeply passionate about what they do. Knowing that these other retail establishments were in Shelburne was a large part in our deciding to relocate there. Plus, they take really good care of me and my store.
There is a real collegial spirit amongst all of us. Part of it could be that we don’t compete for customers, but essentially all of these merchants who understand and appreciate all the businesses of the village. I’d be lost every day if it weren’t for Village Wine and Coffee. Their iced double shot skim latte is my drink of choice, and anyone can order a “Josie” and they’ll make it for you. When I’m stranded alone at the store, often someone will run one over for me.  I’ve hustled books and gift cards to the coffee shop staff when they’ve needed things and they were stuck at work.
Deb at the Shelburne Country Store orders our holiday sugar plums that we give out to customers by the fistful in December. She also has provided many author gifts of homemade delicious fudge. We commiserate about how parking in town is getting harder and we strategize about we can work together to make it better. She gives us a discount as we do her.  On days when staff is weary, JP, our most petite staffer, runs over to get “vitamins” for everyone from the barrels of penny candy.
Another independent store in the village is called Arabesque, an upscale home goods store. Tracey, the owner, frequents the bookstore and we give a gift certificate to her charity every year. It’s a lovely place for presents and I always make a point to stop in during the holidays.
These other shopkeepers understand my struggles and I theirs. We always talk about getting together, but we can never find the time. So, rather than formally meet, we chat up a storm whenever we see each other. These are the stores I happily direct my customers to, especially when they’re new to the area. Nothing makes me happier than being able to send people to the other stores that I know are great and give the same level of customer service we strive to provide. We are proud of our little village and want to people to spend as much time as they can shopping here.
So, my community isn’t just my customers, it’s these retailers, they are the backbone of the village, and I just hope I look after them as well as they look after me.

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