Upon unlocking the front door and walking into RoscoeBooks last Thursday morning, I had two thoughts. My first thought was, “Whoa, the back room looks surprisingly clean today. Hooray!” My second thought was, “Hey, my bookstore has been open for exactly six months! It’s our half-birthday today! HOORAY!”
We first opened our doors in the middle of the day on November 21st, 2014, after frantically mopping the floors, ripping the black paper off our front windows and giving our receipt printer one last test run. The six months that have followed have been jam-packed with hard work, great fun, amazing books…and more than a few surprises. As I reflect upon RoscoeBooks passing the half-year mark, here are a few observations about what has taken me by surprise the most:
Owning a bookstore has completely changed the way I read…and that’s both a good and a bad thing. This might sound ridiculous, but before I opened RoscoeBooks, I didn’t really understand what a huge part of this job the act of actually reading books would be. Before, I would choose books to read based on nothing more than my desire to read them, and would evaluate them simply based on how much I enjoyed them. Now, every time I begin a new book, I’m doing so with several questions in mind – will this book be as good as I want it to be? If I like this book, to whom will I recommend it? Will others enjoy it as much as I do? Reading in this way can lead to some wonderful discoveries (like Atticus Lish’s Preparation for the Next Life and Lauren Acampora’s The Wonder Garden) that I likely wouldn’t have uncovered if not for my work in a bookstore. But the flip side of this is that there are some books (I’m looking at you, Everything I Never Told You) that I’ve been dying to read forever, but haven’t gotten around to because there are more current books or lesser-known books that I feel like I should be reading instead. In the end, though, and despite this conundrum, I can say with some confidence that reading enriches my life more now than it ever has.
When you’re a bookseller, “A Case of the Mondays” has a whole new meaning! Most new books are released on Tuesdays. That means that, every Monday afternoon, I can count on UPS bringing a few shipments of brand-new books to the store. Opening these boxes is a highlight of the week – after hearing so much about some of these books (or perhaps reading them in advance), it’s a joy to finally see the finished copies with their beautiful cover art, and think about how and where to display them. There’s been no shortage of talk lately about the value and resurgence of tangible books as opposed to e-books…and, to me at least, at no point is the difference between the two as stark as it is on Monday afternoons.
Bookstore customers are the BEST customers. I didn’t think that RoscoeBooks would have “regulars” so quickly! But we do, and seeing a familiar face walk through the door is one of the distinct pleasures of this job. From the customer who placed our very first special order (before we even opened!), to the mom who pops in once a week to buy the next book in a series her son loves, to the professor with a soft spot for new hardcovers, I love seeing these friendly folks in the store and around the neighborhood. And I especially love hearing about what others are reading; you have no idea how many wonderful books we’ve decided to carry for no other reason than because they’ve been highly recommended by a customer.
Having the right people on your side is EVERYTHING. When you open a business, you receive lots of lovely compliments. Neighbors and new friends come out of the woodwork to tell you how thrilled they are to have a bookstore in the neighborhood, how beautiful everything looks, how much they enjoy the kids’ section, etc. The truth is, though, that I deserve precious little credit for anything good that goes on in the store. Nothing would ever get done at RoscoeBooks if not for the children’s librarian who’s a human ray of sunshine and knows everything about kids’ and YA books. And the blogosphere wizard who has read more books (and has more bookish insight) than pretty much anyone I know. And the manager whose incredible work ethic, spot-on instincts, and ability to think of everything before you do makes everyone in her presence want to be that much better. If you come into the store and see these guys, THEY are the ones you should thank.
And lastly…I’ve never known what it meant to really, truly love your job. It’s a well-worn cliché at this point that, when you’re in the right line of work, you can’t wait to get up in the morning and go to your job. I just never, ever thought this cliché would apply to ME. And I’m STILL surprised by it, and ridiculously grateful…every single day.
If you’ve read this far, thanks for caring about RoscoeBooks and supporting us up to this point. Here’s to the next six months!