I miss my bookstore. I miss being surrounded by the words lived by others. They dreamed and imagined and put all their creative being at a moment of time onto a page, not knowing if it would ever be read. I had a few cases of old collectibles and even some first editions in my bookstore. It was a used bookstore and writing center I opened in Columbus, Indiana. Was it successful? Not really. I barely broke even by the beginning of year two, but it was heaven. Six thousand books on the shelves, but Heaven for me was getting in a box of old books from a person cleaning out their garage or basement from their mom’s house. The books smelled old and musty. Covers were tattered with years of moving, shelving, and moisture wear. Most had not be read for years or at all. I had walls and floors filled with shelves and books. Every genre, every price, all cherished. I arranged displays every few weeks, developed writing classes, and helped local school kids create their first book. It was such fun to use my love of writing and reading to share and teach others how to appreciate stories.
I closed my book store 2 years after I opened in order to follow my husband to Texas. I cried a lot that week because it had also become a stopping point for several friends and other book collectors like myself. Packing was emotionally painful but friends and family made it easier.
I proved something to myself in owning a bookstore. I proved I was not a very good business person. I loved my stock too much and sold it too cheap. I paid to much for the used books I bought from customers. I paid too much attention to the books and not enough to the business of books. It was stressful and hard work since I was the boss and employee. Hiring a few helpers to relieve me for a half day here and there did help. I gave it my all and my heart. It did not disappoint but did not pay the bills either. It was a blessing to have had that opportunity.
Now I get my book fix by going to the library or a used bookstore and standing between the stacks, just reading titles. I pick up the oldest and most awful looking book on the shelf and read the first line on the first page and smile. The book is shelved again and I move onto the next. Sometimes I see a book inscribed by someone with love, dated and signed. I imagine the recipient reading it and I wonder if they ever read the tightly cracking book. It was obviously deposited on their shelf for years before feeling enough time had passed to not offend the giver by passing it on.
Books are so very personal. We pick books based on our experiences, our needs, or our values. The books on our shelves often represent our wide variety of interests or beliefs. The colors of the cover, the writing on the book jacket, the first line of the first page, all are a tactile addiction for the bibliophile. That’s why I am almost ashamed to admit that I have an e-reader now. It just made more sense with traveling often through airports. However, I still prefer the joy of holding a paper book in my hand.
While I don’t think I would ever want to open my own business again, it was a great time in my life that I will never forget. It combined my favorite things in life; books and sharing that love of books.
See you in the stacks!