I’m a Used Bookstore Nerd – Shakespeare & Co.

Before I get into that I want to report that I had so much fun at the Sustainable Living Expo 2014 held Mar 29. A few people came up to the booth asking why there was a library at the Expo. My response, “mmmm….well, I represent my store, Otter Creek Used Books, and selling a sampling of our books.” Sales were great.

So being a used bookstore nerd…

Paris1931Those who know me, know my infatuation with Shakespeare & Co. I ‘connected’ with Sylvia Beach when I read about her life as a bookseller in Paris. Her story was one of persistence, courage, and skill. What a thrill to have been in Paris during her time. Not so much during the Nazi takeover but for the authors that frequented her shop. The books, the conversations… I know it was hard work for her. In my simple life I get how much busier she had to be to maintain the store’s existence and her quest to helping out struggling writers.

I have a customer who has become a good friend and a great supporter of my efforts here. He’s always coming in with ideas to help increase exposure, customers and sales. He gets the business. Used bookstores and retail. Some ideas are helpful. Some are good intentions. Some I wish I had the money at hand to take on. I take them all seriously and mull them over to see if they are viable for me. (Which comes down to no costs.) His latest was an easy one. Paris In May. Celebrating all that is French during May. Still working out ideas but one that I said I could easily do was contact Shakespeare & Company. Of course I had no idea what I’d write about or what I was asking for or  expecting. But writing was easy. Until I sat down at my computer to type out an email. But I wrote I wasn’t sure what I was asking or thinking of but was hoping for some sort of connection. I guess. And to serve as an intro to Bill and his friend who will be heading over to Paris soon. Including hoping he’d buy something and bring back a receipt.  (Of course he has to now.)  So I clicked “send” and off went the email. Really not expecting much. But lo and behold! a few days later I got a response.

Here I am this small used bookstore. A pin dot in the map of the world. Receiving a return email from THE used bookstore in the world – to me, that is. They read my blog. Those who know me know that I get uncomfortable when people tell me they read this but when I read their email I was excited and honored. They admired my perseverance and devotion to books. And I touched them all. They wrote that! They mentioned my move and the photos of the space here in the Marble Works and that we (as booksellers) and books need light and how it looks so warm and welcoming.  Then they wrote about not waiting for Bill to bring me back something but was sending me a parcel. And they did. Here is what I received:

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George Whitman must have been an amazing bookseller. Definitely. He picked up where Sylvia Beach had left off. His visiting authors were Lawrence Durrell! Styron, Henry Miller, Saroyan, James Baldwin! Oh my, his list is just as long as impressive. I’ve been devouring the book photos and pulling out ideas to try out in the store: Mirror of Love, for instance, and a writer’s nook but of course, more reflective of this store. Pity the next customer who buys Dostoevky’s The Idiot! :)

His daughter, Sylvia is now taking over the store. And yes, she is named after THE Sylvia. And is currently working on the history of the store as well as managing the store in her father’s absence. And she is gaining in fame with her impressive list of modern authors.

“Heaven is a place with books and cherry trees,” was their last sentence in their email response to me. Doesn’t that just conjure a beautiful image? I don’t have a cherry tree – yet – but I’m working on one in my fashion that will be ready for May.

“Books are works of the imagination, aren’t they? So, a bookshop should reflect the imagination,” George Whitman (1913-2011), Shakespeare & Co, Paris.

That is my motivator.

 

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OCUB @ Sustainable Living Expo 2014

SL_expo
Otter Creek Used Books will be at this show, March 29th. And looking forward to it. Used books fit right into this philosophy.

Look for Hannah in the gym, booth #M43.  She’ll have oodles of books available for sale from solar building, ecology, farming, herbs and gardening, spirituality, self-sufficiency, vegan cookbooks, to building and repairing houses. The list goes on and on.

I’ll be in the store selling what doesn’t go to the Expo.

Should be a good show. Check it out!

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21st Annual Vermont Book & Ephemera Fair

VABA 2014

Check out this event!  Many of your favorite Vermont used bookstores will be there. All together under one roof! So much fun and so much to see: Nancy Drew to books from
the 1600s, stock certificates from the 1800s, to postcards from the 1900s. Something for every interest and price range. Also several local historical groups and bookbinders will have displays. Admission is (still!) only $5 with children under 16 free. For more information check out the website www.VermontIsBookCountry.com

Unfortunately, I won’t be there. My husband surprised me with a little trip as he knew I (we) needed a break. Thank you, dear! I’ll be away Mar 23-26. Though I won’t be at the VABA book fair I will be at the Sustainable Living Expo 2014 that will be held March 29 in Middlebury. For information on that visit this site: acornvt.org/sle2014. I’ll also post about it when I return.

Hannah and Grey will keep the store open while I’m away but hours will be shorten to the afternoon – 1-5 pm to accommodate Grey’s nap schedule. They’ll be in when he wakes up.  Ah, the life of a two-year old, huh?

 

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Otterly Rambles

ocub_blocksSo much for New Year resolutions! That’s all I’m going to say about that. The year has so far been very good to the store. I’ve been busy with SPS – sorting, pricing, shelving. That is what my time has been taken up with. No complaints here!

In between all my store busyness, I’ve also been thinking of what to write about. Have I covered all there is about owning a used bookstore? No. But I don’t want to nag about stuff. I don’t want to complain about things. I want to be positive and let go some of the weirdness. Some things are just not meant to be written about. Like what? Like how I sweep the floor every day, mop as needed – careful around the books piled on the floor. I like the vision of walking into the store and noticing a clean floor in the Big Yellow Room. The light reflecting in through the windows. It gives a cozy feel between the bookcases. To not forget to water the plants. That kind of stuff. Also rearranging shelves displaying books and nicknacks. To make it interesting to regular customers always looking for what’s new.

I’ve also given myself permission to read during open store hours. What??? Seriously that was hard to do. I always felt I had to appear busy doing something. I have no idea why. Maybe I just don’t want people to think I sit around all day. Well, I’m not sitting all the time. My in-the-store book I’m reading is George Orwell’s,  Keep the Aspidistra Flying. More on the book later.

Currently I’ve been working on a literary tour of Addison County, Vermont. I did two guides while employed at the Addison County Chamber of Commerce – Mid Vermont Heritage Guide. Working on a take-off of them. It’s a lot of research and a lotta fun.  Check it out. There is a link of the beginning stage at the top of the page. It is a work in progress.  A lot of info is missing including links but they’ll be coming. And photos. Let me know what you think and what needs to be added. Suggestions are encouraged. Part of the process.

Thanks!

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Meeting 2014 Head On!

ocub_nibs

Hard to believe but here is 2014. I never do resolutions but this year I’m so into it. Thought I’d share some of what I’ve written down with the store in mind:

  • More bookcases!
  • More shelves!
  • More postings
  • More books online
  • More photos
  • More creativity

I think you get where I’m coming from. More! And it’s not pressure I’m putting on myself but getting totally back involved in the store. I’ve got all these ideas swirling in my head so with the new year it’s time I get those ideas out of the head and into the store. I can easily get bogged down with boxes of books so I’m trying to, I guess, have more fun and letting go. Giving myself permission to not work so hard (sorting, pricing, shelving) but enjoy what I have – an amazing used bookstore. Probably it’s more amazing that I own a used bookstore.

And I want to post interesting books that come in so you see what my inventory is like. Especially since this website is still a blog. Like this book, “Flowers: Their Origins, Shapes, Perfumes & Colours” by J. E. Taylor, Ph.D., F.L.S. Published by John Grant, Edinburgh, 1906, fourth edition:

Flowers_Taylor1 Flowers_Taylor2 Flowers_Taylor4 Flowers_Taylor5

And a quote from the book: “Numbers of hard-working men and women, wearied with brain as well as manual labour, are learning to restore their lowered energies by such country outings as the pursuit of natural science involves. Every day we are proving that “man liveth not by bread alone”; and that sunny blue skies, laughing streams, and flower-bedecked fields are full of lofty and even spiritual teachings.”

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Happy New Year!

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“Perhaps that is where our choice lies — in determining how we will meet the inevitable end of things, and how we will greet each new beginning,” from the book BURNING by Elana K. Arnold.

Happy New Year one and all! May 2014 equally bless us with good cheer and fortune.

Thank you for a wonderful 2013.

Barbara Harding, owner

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Merry Christmas from Otter Creek Used Books!

2013 Christmas

2013 Christmas

Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight!

**********

For the Christ Child who comes is the Master of all,
No palace too great and no cottage too small.

~ Phillips Brooks

Wishing you all a very, merry Christmas!
-Barbara

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Seven Otterly Amazing Years!

Wow! It is so hard to believe that it has been seven years since I purchased the store! Seven years! The time has certainly flown.

Previous Main Street Location, Middlebury, VT

Previous Main Street Location, Middlebury, VT

I’ve learned a lot about retail, the used book store business, books in general but most importantly about myself. I’ve always thought of myself as a strong, independent-minded woman and to be in today’s retail world that outlook comes in handy. Retail is hard work and the used bookstore business is well, one must have faith. Faith that customers will buy and faith that the business will financially succeed.

I enjoy the process I’ve gone through pulling the business up to pay for itself. My five year goal was met. Of course, I now have a three year goal for the new location. Another year towards it. I have full confidence!

So here I am seven years into the used book business. I have met some incredible mentors who are always available to answer my questions regardless of how silly they might be, amazing customers who have followed me here into the Marble Works, and very nice people who have sold, traded, or donated their books to the store.

Thank you! Thank you for reading my blog, coming into say hi or to check on me. Thank you for following me to the Marble Works. And thank you for helping me keep a used bookstore in Middlebury. And to my family for their support. Even those who live so far away.

Here’s to another seven years!

Current Marble Work Location, Middlebury, VT

Current Marble Works Location, Middlebury, VT

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Otter Poetry


Original art by Hannah Harding-Minton

River-Mates by Padraic Colum

I'll be an otter, and I'll let you swim
A mate beside me; we will venture down
A deep, dark river, when the sky above
Is shut of the sun; spoilers are we,
Thick-coated; no dog's tooth can bite at our veins,
With eyes and ears of poachers; deep-earthed ones
Turned hunters; let him slip past
The little vole; my teeth are on an edge
For the King-fish of the River!
I hold him up
The glittering salmon that smells of the sea;
I hold him high and whistle!
Now we go
Back to our earths; we will tear and eat
Sea-smelling salmon; you will tell the cubs
I am the Booty-bringer, I am the Lord
Of the River; the deep, dark, full and flowing River.

Found in the book, The Birds and the Beasts Were There: Animal poems selected by William Cole. Published by The World Publishing Company, 1963.

For this raining November day.

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"The Birds and the Beasts Were There" book. With the store's mascot.

 

 

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@foundhello discovered in Marble Works

American Flatbread, Marble Works, Middlebury VT

American Flatbread, Marble Works, Middlebury VT

Otter Creek Used Books, Marble Works, Middlebury VT

Mail drop, Marble Works, Middlebury, VT

Mail drop, Marble Works, Middlebury, VT

See the green post-it notes?  The other day, my daughter, Hannah, just returned to the store from checking the mail and walked from the Big Yellow Room towards the Children’s Room when she let out a squeal, “We got a post-it, too!” What? She explained to me that she had seen a post-it note on Flatbread’s outdoor menu board and just discovered one in our store. Well, that has to mean something! Recognizing “@foundhello” was a twitter thing, I went online to check it out. Apparently someone goes around and puts post-it notes on random places for people to find and enjoy. And to encourage. Positive messages. So I grabbed my cell and took photos.

The other day I went to post a letter and as I approached the mail box I noted something green fluttering and lo and behold! another post-it note! Marble Works received three! At least that’s all I found.

I really like the message left in my store. I don’t know if it is a message meant for me but I am taking it to heart. I’m not going out without a good fight! I’ll continue working hard to keep this store open. I don’t want to take my inventory home and be an online used book store. So to whoever you are, thank you! It was a nice treat to find the notes and smile.

I love stuff like this.

 

 

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