July 30
I'm a lawyer in my past life, who got the kids through college and decided to try something different and a little more fun. A used book store sounded like a good idea, so that's where I am for now. I just hadn't counted on a recession or E-readers and am a little afraid there's going to be a third act. In the meantime, I have plenty to read and a little time to write. Not a bad way to spend a day.


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MAY 31, 2013 11:43AM

25 Things I'm Learning From Closing a Bookstore.

Rate: 83 Flag

A while back I wrote "25 Things I Learned From Opening a Bookstore." This is the other bookend.

1. When people ask why you're closing, you can tell them that the economy's poor and people are buying Nooks. But it's more fun to tell them that it's time to move on because you've read everything in the store.

2. Two out of every three people will believe this.

3. The rest won't believe you're really closing until you quit putting free gum in the gum bowl.

4. A Butterfinger dropped in a box of books in the back room and then forgotten will still be good when you find it and eat it seven years later. The same is not true for the cup of coffee you set down while searching for the Butterfinger. 

5. If you lined up all the left over Harlequin romances from shuttered bookstores and took a picture, you'd have an excellent image of infinity to add to the post on Wikipedia.

6. Left unattended in a back room, used books reproduce like rabbits. Which is one of the reasons it took so long to find the Butterfinger.

7. When you have a half off sale, neither you nor half of the  people checking out will know what half off of $7.50 is.

8. And, no, it isn't $3.25.

9. If it's a two part test and you also need to know what half off of $3.50 is, you find out that it's true. We really aren't smarter than the average fifth grader.

10. It's never good to throw away books. However, if it's true that the exception proves the rule, Harlequin romances are the exception.

11. A lot has happened in the seven years I've had the bookstore: moms  took over Facebook, gay marriage became a reality, marijuana stores came to Main Street, Vampire and Zombie books got their own sections and 13,892,641 people self-published a book instead of browsing in a bookstore.

12. Don't fact check the above number. I found it hidden in the fiction section, along with every single gum wrapper that the kids who came in for the free gum didn't throw on the floor over the past seven years.

13. For every monthly poker game, there are 10 monthly bookclubs. Which might make you think that bookstores do a brisker business than gambling boats, but which isn't true. What is true is that every single poker player thinks they're good enough not to need a "How to Win at Poker" book.

14. Putting up signs throughout the store helps to reduce inventory when closing up. "Shoplifters Will NOT Be Prosecuted," helps more than "Buy Two, Get One Free." "We Accept Bad Checks," hardly helps at all since no one under the age of 40 knows what a check is.

15. If you sneak two small romance books in with every purchase, in two weeks time you'll still have an unlimited supply of romances. Sneak in the "Left Behind" series of books instead.

16. When you advertise that all books are $1.00, someone will call and ask if you have any leather bound, gilt edged, first editions from the 1800's.

"You mean the ones that are worth a lot of money?"

 Yes they do.

17. If you think people with trucks avoid you when you're getting ready to move to a new apartment, just wait until you're closing a bookstore.

18. Michelle Obama has nothing over the arms of a certain 60-something woman who's closing a bookstore.

19. Other than the size and quality of paper, I will never understand the difference between a comic book and a graphic novel.

20. Whoever said, "There is no such a thing as too many books," was wrong, but is cordially invited to help me pack. Hopefully, he has a truck.

21. If you think you have enough boxes to take all unsold books to Goodwill, you will be wrong by at least half the number of boxes you need. Goodwill was wrong when they said they'd be happy to take however many books you bring.

22. I have tried but totally failed in my quest to see that everyone that walks through the store leaves knowing the difference between fiction and non-fiction. True and not true will just have to do. Even then, they'll still have to think about it.

23. If customers are standing in front of the mystery section looking for Lee Child, and you tell them that the mysteries are in alphabetical order by author names and then leave the room to pack up books, nine out of ten will be standing in the same place, not knowing which way to turn, when you come back.

And, once again, that pesky fifth grader shows his face.

24.  Moving your home and closing a bookstore at the same time is not a good idea. The temptation to send the moving van over to pick up all those books and take them with you is great.

25. It is sadder than I thought it would be to close a bookstore--a little like coming to the end of a really good book with a wonderful cast of characters. 

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You are so clever. This list is delightful. But the news I glean from it is not, unless you are glad to be closing your bookstore! Seven years qualifies in my book as a "good ole college try."

BTW, Butterfinger is my all-time favorite candy bar. I'm not sure I would have eaten the one I'd lost seven years ago (unless I put it under a microscope to search for chocolate worms!)

I repeat: Arrrrrggggghhhhh! I will sooooo miss your stories from the bookstore! R&R :-(
Oh no!!!
An era is ending, another bookstore is closing.....
You're moving on to book *writing*, right?
You have at least one good book's worth of bookstore stories, then Africa stories, and we haven't even heard yet about the lawyer era : )
ps -- If I were remotely close, I'd be right over with truck to help you move.
Good luck with your next chapter.

There may be other thrift stores that could help. We have City Thrift here and they pick up, still you'd need the boxes, but it may help to spread the wealth.
If indeed you are closing the bookstore, that could a a sad time. Kinda like in the movie - You've Got Mail. R.
Lezlie--The trade-off is that I'll get to be with grandkids. I think I'll be glad when it's all said and done. As for the Butterfinger (which is my favorite too), I did check for mouse nibbles.

jmac--As Emmerling noted the other day, there's no reason I can't keep writing about the bookstore. I think there might be a visit from Rena.

Just Thinking--No book writing in the plans. Just some blogging when I'm not watching grandkids and playing with my matchbook cars.
Oh NO! I wanted to do a reading there!
But . . .do I ever understand.
Asia--Thanks for stopping by. I hope you're enjoying Indiana. I will spread the wealth. And there are a few places that do pick ups. I'm counting on them particularly for the bookshelves.

Lyle--Where's my Tom Hanks?!
Sadly I must disagree with you on the Butterfinger thing. As a self-professed Butterfinger junkie, I can tell you that the biggest problem I face is finding one that is fresh enough to eat. They have a short self-life and take on the consistincy of a boulder after about a week in the store.

As for the Graphic novel and the comic book, well a graphic novel is a comic book with delusions of grandure.
So you *did* go with Matchbox over Hot Wheels ~
Those cars are fun enough for a grandma to decide to retire : )
Does this mean you're moving to Africa?
'Cause, sorry, but I can't help you move that far.
I am one of the guilty ones who enjoy those smutty Harlequin romances. It's a newly-acquired vice.
. Michelle Obama has nothing over the arms of a certain 60-something woman who's closing a bookstore.
michelle had nor ever did have anything over you, lady...

Why is marking a book indespensible to reading it? First, it keeps you awake — not merely conscious, but wide awake. Second, reading, if it is active, is thinking, and thinking tends to express itself in wordes, spoken or written...Third, writing your reactions down helps you to remember the thoughts of the author...Marking a book is literally an expression of your differences or your agreements with the author, It is the highest respect you can pay him.

Mortimer Adler, book guy.
~There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person.

G. K. Chesterton, in Heretics (1905).
Chicago guy--I would have loved to have had you, although you're probably overestimating the size of the store and the traffic.

David--I am totally with you on the problem with Butterfingers and was surprised that it was the right texture. Maybe that's the secret--you have to keep them in a box of books for six years.

Just Thinking--Matchbook if I'm buying new, but I'll go with anything at garage sales. And, no, not Africa. They're finishing up there. It will be DC for a while, then Mexico next.

theig--You are definitely not alone. I tend to go towards mysteries, but end up at a romance occasionally. It's the sheer volume of them that gets me. I read somewhere yesterday that Harlequin alone sells four books every second.
We are becoming too digital.
Better things coming along. Is there another used bookstore in town that would like the inventory and could help you move it?
~When all the people are just
Shuffling home
When all the saddest things are
Said and done
And all the words are brighter
In the happy light of
Closing time...

chapter two...
That people are illiterate doesn't surprise me. That illiterate people come to a bookstore does.

Sorry you're closing.

It seems to me that there has to be a conceptual artist in your neighborhood who could do something really interesting with a few hundred Harlequin romance books. Use them as bricks to build something, paper a wall with their covers, something. Those aren't particularly imaginative ideas, but I'm not a conceptual artist.
oh, i am sad, jl. you were surely the best bookstore owner i have heard of. i miss your store already, and hope you are happy at the next stage coming your way. love and hugs.
I'm sorry. The book business has always been tough, but now it's worse than ever.

Um, you wouldn't happen to have any of Robert Caro's books on LBJ, would you? Failing those, a copy of World War Z? I think $1.00 + shipping is a fair price for Z.
James--Good quotes. A lot of people specifically pick out books that have been marked in because they like seeing what someone else said or saw.

Catholicgirl--I tend to agree. But I think the corner's been turned.

just Phyllis--I have one store that's interested, but we all kind of suffer from an overload of books.

Chuck--Nice. Chapter two, indeed.

kosher--I need to rewrite if customers are coming off as illiterate. Not always quick at math (me included)--yes.
Baffled by the number of books and alphabetizing (me included)--yes.
Interesting and quirky--yes.
But illiterate? No.
I've enjoyed each and every one and admire their interest and dedication to reading, whatever their preferred genres are.
j--You're probably overestimating my sales numbers! (at least that's what I'm going for in all the relentless promotion I have to do)
Stim--I was really hoping that I had one and could surprise you, but "World War Z" has never stayed around long and the only LBJ book I see is the Doris Kearns one. So you lose out--I wouldn't even have taken your dollar.

Chicago Guy--Ha. But at least you're still on the upward trajectory.
Always wondered how anyone could make enough money running a used bookstore to pay the bills let alone make a profit. Seven years is a respectable run -- congratulations. Here's to the next chapter.
You have a marijuana store on Main Street? (Scratches head) So tell me again why you are moving? Seriously, good luck and keep us "posted." R
Harlequin romances make excellent kindling!
daisyjane--I missed you somehow. I'm pretty sure there are good days ahead--or blue skies, as you might say.

Biblio--Profit? Was there supposed to be profit?

Gerald--Maybe I'm not moving from those stores, maybe I'm moving TO where they are.

lefty--True that.
I wish my laughter at some of these items wasn't tinged with sadness. If I didn't live a thousand miles away, I'd be glad to help you move the books, as long as you knew that some of them would get "lost in transit."
wow, killer stuff. my favorite tech bookstore closed a few mos ago. the end of a huge era. I think it predated the dotcoms by several years, and I remember when it was really big & swelled during the tech boom/bubble. it slowly dwindled in floor space over the years, slowly drying up, and I could tell it wasnt long for this world.
I was a big fan of the idea of ebooks years ago when it was totally a scifi idea, & promoted it, but it didnt really occur to me long ago that it would seriously threaten regular books. and thats a kind of tragedy.
anyway, dont feel too bad. I hear barnes & noble is going to close many stores. if a multibilliondollar corp cant cut it either, what chance is there?
hope you didnt lose money on it. you did squeeze out something over the years right?
Mathematically illiterate
cranky--"Lost in transit" my eye. I'd be sneaking whole box fulls into your trunk.

vzn--I didn't really make any money, but I have no regrets. It was a great way to spend seven years.

kosher--As long as you include me in there too. Those 75 cent answers always get me.
Good luck with what's to come. Grandkids and all.
Good luck with what's to come. Grandkids and all.
Don't deal with the whole number. Split it and deal with it as a pair of problems. $7.50? Half of $7.00 plus half of 50 cents.

$3.50? Same deal. Half of three bucks plus half of 50 cents.
Or, alternatively on the first one, 7.50:
Half of six bucks plus half of a buck fifty. Then you don't have to add the change.
I'm so sorry to hear you're closing your store. I hear you laughing it off but know this, I'm sad with you. On the bright side, much good could still come from your books...if you sent them to prison. Haha but seriously, I would love to hear a story about that if you decide to do so...
Hate to see one less independent bookstore!
Loved this Bookend & wish you my best! I don't buy Harlequin Romance Novels at Bookstores - I have them delivered in Brown Wrappers by Brown Shorts Sizzlers! And no, I am not addicted!
Trilogy--Thanks. I look forward to the grandkids. Should I be saving up on sleep?

kosher--I have the $7.50 and $3.50 down pat now and get the bigger numbers in a way sort of like you suggest. I'm still waiting for it to feel more automatic though.

just another--I have lots of ideas and options. I already give to the local jail, there's a Books for Prisoners group in town, a Veteran's Hospital nearby, local airports that I've talked to about setting up shelves with free books, schools, etc. I think they'll find new homes, just like me.

Patrick--Me too. Thanks for coming by.
Marilyn--You slipped past me. It must have been that brown paper around your comment.
"I will never understand the difference between a comic book and a graphic novel."

Go tell this to a true 'Graphic Novel, not comic book!' fanatic, and see what answer you'll get!! :D Me? I'm a comic book nut!!! Use to have tons of them, several were worth quite a bit of money...till I read them!! OH NOZE!! :D What's the point in buying a comic book if you're not going to read them!! ":D

Sorry about the closing......:(
I swear I rated and posted earlier but my comment seems to have disappeared!!! We are all a little poorer every time a bookstore closes its doors. But I hope you will find lots of joy in using your kickass arms to hug your grandkids!!
@ 12:41 I bumped into Antoinette Errante.
That's two bumps in a row. She's fun to bump.
Accidents can be innocent fun. NO bump book?
I was sadwhen 'Borders' closed. I visited often.
'd take my best Friends - Nine and four there.
After a Book Store Visit we'd Get Ice Cream.
JL, to add to what L in the Southeast wrote, I think you are quite the most clever and funny writer I have encountered. I really hope I get a chance to meet you in person. Your wry, dry sense of humor suits this turn of events.

From Butterfinger wrappers to ending a really good book,, you have won my heart.

Best wishes for you regarding the tumult. I hope the near and long term future is expansive because you definitely have the charisma to be a video teacher
I am so sorry that you are closing! A good bookstore is maybe my most favorite place to be.
Tink--I haven't carried enough graphic novels to bring in those fanatics. I will grant them that the art is probably better.

Antoinette--I guess I'll have to be careful how hard I squeeze.

Art--A book and an ice cream=a good day.

Emily--You're too nice. Now I feel compelled to write a wry and witty response, but alas...

greenhorn--There are still bookstores out there. Keep supporting them.
The end of an era, but I can tell you that I don't know what I would do without my mom and dad around to help out with the kids for half the year. I will never be able to pay them back for all their help, but I also value beyond measure the fact that they have real relationships with each of my children. Thanks for a great read and best wishes with the transition!
I'm so glad you did this list - the perfect bookend to your first (pun DEFINITELY intended, though it's so bad, I should probably be ashamed....). Reading your reflections and observations about being a bookstore owner has been a delight. I'm so sad that you won't be that bookstore owner anymore. But I know that wherever you go, and whatever's in store for you, you'll have so many interesting, eloquent things to say about it - and that's my consolation, I guess. All the best to you in this time of transition and change.
Clever bookend, but sad. I wonder if anyone will be opening book stores in 10 years. What will you be doing now, besides writing?

You're terrific!

Jennifer--I loved reading your comment about your parents. It's what I hope my daughter can say down the road.

Alysa--I think we both get credit for the "bookend" (definitely intended) pun. Thanks for the good wishes.

Lea--I don't foresee a lot of stand alone store in the future, but maybe in combination with other things. As for me, I'm off to follow my daughter's family around in their travels--hopefully doing a little writing while I help with grandkids.

Jonathan--Thank you.
Jeanne - Oh my gosh, so we do! I'm sorry - this is what a lack of sleep and inhaling paint fumes from our newly painted bathroom ceiling hath wrought....
You can "play" bookstore with your grandkids and pretend. Books are so important to a child's life. I will be waiting for your posts on your new life.
Sorry to hear it. Amazingly enough (to me at least) some Goodwill stores are now putting their book inventory on amazon. I was looking for a bio of Lester Young the other day and bought a copy from a Goodwill in California for $2.50 plus shipping.
$3.75! Do I get the free romance books? It seems like a bittersweet ending.

You might try donating your books to the local public library; they usually take them.

When a bookstore closes, a little pixie loses her wings. :(

But...I'm dying to know what your Act III will be :)
zanelle--You can bet I'll be bringing lots of kids books.

Con--Goodwill knows where the market it.

Trudge--You win! The boxes are on their way. Sorry about the COD for postage.

V--I'll be traveling along with my daughter's family and playing with grandkids. Hopefully, she'll be posted in The Netherlands some day.
I'm hoping that blogging has become second nature, and that wherever you go, you will share some of your experiences with us. It's been great fun to read your bookstore adventures. My public library took a bunch of old books and had a local artist bronze them into a large column that sits outside the library in a little garden area.
Best to ya in the next whatever it is JL..

I say write :- ]
I am so very sorry. Visiting your book store was on my list of 25 things I'd like to do. Whatever your next adventure, let it be joyous. You have entertained us all with your own stories. Hope a book follows. My very best wishes.
So sad that your store is closing. Now, who will be around to correctly pronounce names like Albert Camus and Patricia Cornwell? Best wishes for a brilliant future!
My area has a number of good used book stores. Some of them have closed, or reduced in size. Most of the books did not leave the area, and still are on the shelves of some large Victorian storefront. One book I couldn't afford, twenty years ago, for $20-- a lovely edition of Baron Munchausen's tall tales-- looked it up on the internet, and it now would set me back $2000. Maybe it's not such a bad thing, to be overly fond of books. Being poor is, though.
the funniest one is (actually most are funny)

"8. And, no, it isn't $3.25."
Best of success with the next life books you write.
As a confirmed library/book junkie, it pains me to have read this post. I had to laugh, though, at your laser point perfect observations and descriptions thereof. What a gift you have! Faltering daily searching for my own third-act, your post inserted a spasm of hope that despite what's in front of us in this moment, the best is yet to be. Kudos for the seven (7) years you indulged the public with actual books. Too bad you cannot hold out financially for the inevitable bookstore resurgence as books become retro!

~R~ All the best to you!
Throughout my life, I have bought books solely because I figured that someday I would get around to reading them. Now, I have hundreds of books that I've never read, never will read, don't want to read, and feel terribly guilty about putting into the trash. I have considered giving them to Good Will is reducing its space for books because no one buys them any more. I have tried giving them away to hospitals and assisted living, but they don't want books on philosophy, politics, religion or science fiction, which I consider to be one category.

On the other hand, I find myself reading books I've had for years, instead of reading the ones I've never read before. I am now reading my way through Patrick O'Brian's nautical novels, but I am planning to give each one away after I finish this re-reading.

I have gone to several used book stores to give away my excess books, but they have ALL closed down.

Please help me out here. What do you do with your old books in this day and age?
Such a fan article. Sorry about the store though.
Julie--I love the idea of the bronze statue. I tried a few art-type things with ruined books, but never with much success.

tr ig--Thank you. If I end up someplace that needs a deck, I'll know who to call.

Ande--Ahh...I would have loved it if you had shown up one day.

Steven--Missed opportunities....

Terry--Glad you found them funny. I'm never quite sure when I put them out there.

Mary--Thank you. Next book: How to entertain a 2 year old all day and still stay awake past 7:00.

eyespye--I hope you're right about that resurgence even if I'm not around for it. And best of luck with finding your third act.

sage--I can't give you any great help. It's not easy. One of the reasons I've ended up with so many is because people brought them in and looked so sad at the thought of having to just throw them away.
Mme--Sorry you slipped past me. Thank you.
enjoyed your list thoroughly - #14 is my favorite. may time with your grandchildren far exceed all that you loved about having a bookstore. all your stories about your experiences as a book store owner are a delightful album of beautifully captured memories.
I wish you weren't closing a bookstore. Why did it have to close - no interested buyers, or was it never for sale in the first place?
Hope you set aside a lovely library for the grands. I still have books from my father's childhood, then mine, and my children's. My daughter wants me to do a reading at her wedding from...wait for it -- The Velveteen Rabbit!

I just know this scenario has to be where Nora Ephron got her ideas for the script for You've Got Mail, and there absolutely should have been a Tom Hanks in it for your trouble. I envy you your freedom now though. Schlepping around the globe. Nice work if you can get it!
You are a brave pup. Much love, many good wishes, and oh boy, will you get to go to some really cool places!
It's a sad day. But I loved your post. I am helping my mother move from her huge home of fifty years to smaller quarters. (not a nursing home or indi living) She could have opened a bookstore in that house. We've taken most of them and made some donations. I wish I had the time to figure how many years worth of reading was contained within those walls. Seven people lived there at one time, all avid readers.
All the best to you.
You should write a book about it. Just don't mention your Aunt Tilly.

Funny stuff, a compliment I tend to toss around with the frequency and distance of Studebakers.

Keep an eye out for Tom Hanks.

Class act and graceful exit. "...and leave 'em laughing when you go. You've seen the store from both sides now, from open and closed, and still somehow, it's books' illusions you recall. You really DO know books after all." -- with apologies to Joni M. and Judy C.

Congratulations. It was a good run.
Open Up another bookstore in DC?
Tomorrow I enter a bookstore in WV.
Grandchildren invented a new IDEA.
Pa Pa goes to Farmer Market to loiter,
buy Legos & Books for End of School Gift.
'Kids' (not baby goats) Think New IDEAS.

In Shepherdstown, WV There's a Bookstore.
I get invited to town to buy Book & Legos.
The bookstore Lures little Children There.
I use to Love Borders Books.
This is small and more Better.
WEndell Berry has New Book.
I was there last Farm Market.
Children Bum from Pa Pa.
They know I spoil them.
I spoiled and go rotten.
They know I love them.
Fuck, now I have to read and not write. Boo-hoo!
You could have been a candle, your flame intercepting
the darkness.
Oh, well, even Joseph Conrad used obsolete





Will U B buy. a smll hotel in Paris?

J. P. Hart?
Rent room.
Go to Tripoli.
Drop acid too.
Take Rita Shibr.



I love No. 6. ... Sad to learn you will be closing. I'm one of the few people who still prefer paper-bound books to electronic readers. I'm a professional writer, and spend more than 10 hours a day staring at a screen. Opening my paper-bound book on the light rail train in Denver is such a relief. ...
Thanks to everyone for continuing to read and comment. I'd like to continue responding to each one, but my days are pretty busy trying to find homes for thousands of books.
I agree especially with the one about not ever owning too many books.
15. If you sneak two small romance books in with every purchase, in two weeks time you'll still have an unlimited supply of romances. Sneak in the "Left Behind" series of books instead.

Amen to that, Sister!!

22. I have tried but totally failed in my quest to see that everyone that walks through the store leaves knowing the difference between fiction and non-fiction. True and not true will just have to do. Even then, they'll still have to think about it.

Apparently, a lot of writers, editors and publishers have the same problem.
Please consider coming up with a list of favorite books or some kind of list of meaningful books you've read. I bet it would be interesting and informative.
So sorry about the bookstore. Something just seems wrong about that. It is like the video stores I used to enjoy going to before technology ate those as well. I tried to keep the small bookstore in the middle of Boston's South Station alive as long as I could by buying my books there as often as I could, but time finally caught up with that as well.
Well, you have been my favourite Second-Hand Bookshop proprietor.
Forgive my grammar :-)
They say that, “things happen” for a reason. However, I cannot imagine the level of desperation involved in someone wanting to eat and try to savor a very old (7 years?) Butterfinger. Even a Snickers or a Baby Ruth, would be out of my reach...sad to say.

It is sad news to learn of any business closing. Hopes and dreams are in ashes, usually due to high rent and slow sales. On only has to drive through the “downtown area” of any small city and see the “FOR RENT or FOR LEASE” signs in the windows. In my small town, there are at least 18 such situations.

However, my psychic perception envisions you like a Phoenix. You will rise from the ashes with something much better. I wish you the best of luck with that...
This is terrific, but I wish it wasn't happening. I rate you brave, smart and able to make great decisions.
[r] jl, sigh. but I hope you didn't really eat that butterfingers! great wrap up. favorite: shoplifters will NOT be prosecuted! love it. best, libby