Just The Way It Is:
You know I always have dashed hopes when it comes to the store and winter time. When I first really began to hang around the book and antiques trade, I subjected myself to one of my favorite bookish winter experiences. I can remember it well, The Book Emporium on Main Street. It was operated by a good friend of mine, Ruth Cubert and I was drawn instantly to her and this marvelous little store she had. The winter time seemed to be such a cozy time. Though the books were mostly paper backs, they were stocked pillar to post, with little sections to sit and read in. I dreamed that one day my own store would be this way. The snow would dance outside and hot chocolate would be served from steaming mugs. That old man with his roasted chestnut cart would peddle his way up and down the street selling scalding, hot chestnuts in pink stripped paper bags. Then the.... wait a minute!!! What the hell! Those things never happened. Sorry, I must have slunk off into one of my Rockwell moments. I mean the Book Emporium was a great place, but Ruth HATED winter, and the store often went shuttered for weeks, due to bad weather. It was cold outside. It was slick in spots. Even the very air we breathed was grey, damp and unfriendly. Winter is rough on a small business. Rougher still in a small town that depends on tourists to keep the doors open.
Fast forward twenty some odd years and I'm still dreaming those dreams. Every year I become more and more disappointed with the cold reality of winter on Main Street. Like my friend Ruth, I hate winter. Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas and all its special meanings and the warmth of friendship and glad tidings. Its after the holidays that winter bites the hardest. I always wanted to schedule book readings or book clubs in January, to entice those snow bound citizens, to come in and warm themselves by the fire. Well, that was part of the problem. There was no fire. In fact, there was little heat. I can remember in those early days, that an expensive heating bill would be, maybe, $200.00 and the store would be toasty warm. Today, you would call that a pilot light bill. Lets make this theory, Old un-insulated building + sky rocketing natural gas bills + ancient heating elements + a desire for heat you can actually feel = A couple months worth of mortgages, at the least. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to have good old reliable furnaces. Lets face it, tanks that they are, they ain't going to win no "green" awards. But when I really examine things, its basically me and the die hard book lovers and antiques scouts that will be in there anyway. For my stock and trade, people just don't come out like they do for summer seasons. Besides the more modern customer is one who will exclaim when they come in, " OH MY GOD! Its freezing in here. How do you stand this? I just can't look any more." Yeah, there's that word again, LOOK. Suzy Saturday here, is used to pounding those hard floors at Fayette Mall or other more tony antique venues. Looking is about all she's up for. Amazingly, I've had some really great winter sales over the years. Sales from dealers, dyed in the wool collectors, history buffs, book hoarders, in other words, people who are used to standing at cold winter auctions or poking through old antiques stores. We be a tough breed, unlike the Suzy Saturdays of today. But we are growing older and our flock thins every year. And I'm left chilly waiting for a spring that never seems to come fast enough. So its between a rock and a hard place that I rest for now. No eco friendly furnaces blowing constant streams of hot air out of their iron lungs, no fireplace of crackling logs, no pots of hot chocolate and no Suzy Saturday to come browse and maybe buy a thing or two as she listens to someone read from a vintage novel. Worse yet, there are fewer and fewer of the old soldiers who don't care what the conditions are, they want their stuff! Its the clash between the Browser (maybe we'll buy if you entertain me enough) v/s The Old Collector / dealer who just doesn't care and muck through it anyway. Spring can't come soon enough for me.