When I set up the bookstore for the first time in June, I felt a bit like the grasshopper in the fable. I had the van outfitted, some books sorted in the garage to replace those that sold, and a few events lined out. I was prepared to enjoy the first customers (happened to be a Canadian couple who bought art books) and..well..see how things would unfold. Now with the first frosts in northwest Montana and the aspen turning brilliant yellow, I realize its fall and that means it will soon be winter. What might this mean for a traveling bookstore? Before I had too much time to consider this though, the bookstore was invited to Zoe’s eighth birthday party. Each child attending could get one book as a party favor. You have to love parents who think like this! And on November 20th, the bookstore will be in Missoula to complement Radius Gallery‘s Holiday Art Show. A bit like one-stop shopping. You have an opportunity to buy both beautiful art and unusual used books for those who are special on your list. There are a few private events, a trip to Libby and another appearance at the HA) Brewery lined up. Will even bring the bookstore to a holiday bazaar in Eureka. This still doesn’t address winter though – not really. Does the bookstore hibernate when the temperatures dip or should it be available throughout the season? Should I put in carpeting that does well with snow? Feature books on tropical places? Perhaps I will wait to see what that chapter brings.
Going into the second month of the traveling bookstore business and I still feel that I am continually and delightfully amazed and perplexed by the way things unfold. People give me books to sell. I had thought that there would be initial donations as friends helped to get me started in this business. But now strangers who visit the bookstore might ask, “So where do you get your books?” and I explain that they have been donated and before you know it, this person I never met before is taking my address to drop off books. Or when I was at the HA Brewery, a woman who saw on Facebook that I was going to set up there, came with a box of books in her car to give me. And there are the people who seem to so thoroughly enjoy visiting the bookstore. Sometimes I am asked, “What sorts of people buy your books?” and well, really all kinds. The traveling bookstore seems to be a big hit with little kids but there are the older kids and the adults and those older ones as well. Last week at the Eureka farmers market, a young couple stopped by. It felt to me that they were having a date as she found a book she wanted (by Janet Evanovich), and the young man offered to buy it for her. All these things that happen and even more that I don’t have time today to write about, but encounters and overheard conversations and questions and remarks that come out of people walking into a van that is really a bookstore. Recently one of the remarks and then the conversation that resulted was about authenticity. I am still not entirely sure what it means in this context. I know the person who said it to me meant it as a compliment. And I know that the bookstore is there (wherever there happens to be on a given day) to give whomever walks by a chance to buy books. I am not doing a hard sell. I am trying not to over charge (Anne convinced me to lower my price on kids books). I want to pay the bills and offer the best books that I can cull from the piles in my garage. I want people to appreciate the book that they buy. But perhaps authenticity stretches beyond that. It is still early – my 39th day in business. I still might figure it out.