As of December 31 at about 4:00, LuAnn closed the doors of Green River Books for good.
It’s been a while coming. Last year at roughly the same time, she thought the store might have to close and was quite a ways down that road. But we ended up taking a hard left and it became a kids’ store. Books and toys and various whatnots.
For a while, it did well. But then it just…sort…of…petered out. It simply couldn’t keep its head above water. Our customer base, while fiercely loyal, simply wasn’t big enough to keep the thing running. And very few things we tried worked. We tweaked stock. We expanded – and retracted – hours. We hosted readings and parties and festivals. We had local books and local authors and photography contests and writing contests and reading groups and I can’t even remember what all.
And it has been an interesting ride. We spent six and a half years surrounded by books and people who loved books and discussions of books and arguments about books. But not just books. Discussions of books became discussions about what those books were about. It was not unusual for someone to walk in and find myself and a local judge talking about the 16th century Chinese navy, or find LuAnn and a local attorney dissecting how humanism fits in an America increasingly riven by right-wing religion.
Nor was it unusual to come in and find an author talking about his or her book. Jay Bonansinga, Ron Bluemer, local authors galore. Hell, just during the first week we were open, way back in July, 2002, we had something like 35 authors. At one signing, for a book about a local mining tragedy 100 years ago, we had something like 120 people.
But there were fewer of those successful signings than there were those which had the author, myself or LuAnn, and whoever happened to wander in looking for a bookmark.
And it was that that killed the store.
Our devoted fans and customers spent as much as they could, but there simply weren’t enough of them.
You know, I paused there for a minute to try and figure out what I was writing about, what this post was about. Yeah, it’s about the store but what is there really to say? We opened it, it did well, then it didn’t, then we closed it.
I thought I’d talk about the good moments and the people who meant so much to us and that’s all fine, but there’s part of me that doesn’t really feel like writing anything, as witnessed by the fact that the store closed four days ago and I’m just now writing about it.
And that might be the lesson of this post. I am torn about the closing. There is part of me that’s sad. But there is another part that is ready and maybe even happy to see it done. Honestly, I’m just tired. I’m tired of worrying about getting the bills paid, or lately not paid (and watching the financials just get exponentially worse over the last six months…to the point where I dream about the end of the world on a nightly basis…I’ll tell you about the increasingly lunatic dreams in another post in a few days). I’m tired of worrying about what happens if LuAnn is sick for a day or two. Do we close and lose increasingly needed business? Or do we keep it open and make her work and prolong her cold or flu or whatever?
But mostly I’m tired of listening to the whiners.
“I can’t order this book and get it today?”
“What? You don’t have this book on the history of geology in northern Africa throughout the colonial period?”
“I can’t get a better discount than this?.”
“I can get this cheaper from Amazon.”
Swear to God, I had a guy at the last Harry Potter party (when 10,000 people roamed the entire shopping district of Princeton and spent an incredible amount of money and what did the city donate? Portable toilets. That’s right, the city of Princeton thought the 10,000 people and their money was worth…shit) who bitched about our discount versus Wal Mart’s.
Ours was none, Wal Mart’s was 50% or something.
But the kicker is: this guy stood there and bitched at me WHILE HE WAS ATTENDING THE PARTY!
Hmmmm, you think Wal-Mart donated any money to that party? Fuck no, it came outta my pocket so take your complaint and get the shit outta my store.
I also had a guy once who told me he preferred to do his book shopping at Amazon because it was cheaper. I said that was fine, but when his house burned down, he should call Amazon rather than the fire department and see how much in sales tax they had collected for the fire department.
“Oh, that’s right,” I said to him. “They don’t do sales tax. Too bad about your house, I guess.”
Elsewhere in this blog, I wrote about the woman who wanted a deeper discount on a book already discounted 25% because it was a Christmas book and when she bought it, it wasn’t Christmas time.
That’s the crap that made me crazy and I’m glad those wackos will be out of my life.
But at the same time, I will miss the store and the smell of books and the soft flipping of pages as people read through something and the pleasant grin when someone discovered a new writer or a new thought in a book they randomly pulled from the shelves.
So I guess I have no epiphany after six and a half years. We came, we sold, we didn’t sell, we left.
That’s about it.