The first book was Tom Piccirilli’s Grave Men.
Actually, we sold it the day before we opened. A woman came in the open front door and started looking around. I was standing at the computer, taking care of last minute inventory stuff and there she was.
She went to westerns and I put Tom’s book in her hand and that was that.
Six years later, that is that.
After years of smashing our heads against the bricks of a county long since Wal-Mart-anized, Green River Books is closing. Don’t get me wrong, there were a couple of really great years in that run. But since 2006, the economy has been tough and fighting against an apathy toward downtown businesses – and a surprising apathy about reading – has been tougher.
One of the omens at the beginning that made both LuAnn and I smile was a neon sign at the high school that said, “Princeton Tigers Read!” We thought that was a great summation of what was going to be a grand adventure.
And yet, in spite of numerous attempts to connect with the high school, they never – as an organization – utilized us. Every year, they’d teach various classics of literature and never – not once – did they actually call us and tell us when the classes were starting or how many copies they’d need.
Apparently, Princeton Tigers read only when they have to.
Yes, I am bitter. Yes, I am angry. LuAnn has already gone through her twelve-steps of grief. She’s sad but ready to be done.
I am still pissed. I am still angry at the hordes of people we’ve seen in the shop since the sale started who we’ve never seen before. Hundreds of faces attached to hypocrites saying things like, “We’re so sad you’re closing.”
Yeah? Then maybe you should have visited the shop once – ONCE – in the six years we’ve been open.
I had a customer come in and say, “You guys are closing? I didn’t even know Princeton had a book store.”
Are you fucking kidding me? Six years, thousands of dollars of advertising, nearly 50 authors doing signings, 20,000 visitors to downtown for the bookstore-organized Harry Potter parties, and you never heard of us?
We bought our fixtures from a bookstore that closed up in DeKalb (infamously where the NIU shooting was a few days ago) and that manager was a bitter and pissy and being horrible about his customers. I told myself that was a mistake on his part and promised I’d never be that person.
Yeah, let me introduce myself: Mr. Pissy Bitter Man.
My customers are not bad, understand that. My hardcore customers actually started coming in the day BEFORE the sale. They knew they’d pay full price and they didn’t care. They wanted to pay full price because they knew that would help the store more. Those customers are the greatest. They have supported this store with the kind of full-throated voice that usually only comes from massively partisan party activists.
I will always love those people.
But those people who shopped before the sale and left us with a daily sales average of $100 and who then came in after the sale started and left us with a daily sales of $1200 can bite my ass.
“Yeah,” they’re saying with that kind of support. “We want the books, but we’re sure as hell not going to pay full price for them.”
Late in the day Saturday, I had a woman plunk down a few books. Right now, the store is at 25% off. She handed me a book that she thought was “out of season” and asked if there were a deeper discount because of that.
Twenty-five percent, evidently, isn’t quite enough.
It was all I could do not to punch her in the throat, take $100 out of the cash register for bail money, and call the cops to tell them I battered a bimbo.
Oh, yeah, I am that bookstore manager in Dekalb. Oh, yeah, I am pissy and bitter and angry and vocally inappropriate (though I try to minimize that because now I’m in the position of needing everyone to buy EVERYTHING so I can’t really afford to antagonize even those customers who don’t quite have all their teeth).
I promise I will try to get over my anger. But not today.