Tuesday, May 5, 2015

14/52 :: indie bookstore day.

I posted the above picture to Instagram after we finally arrived home from the bookstore on Saturday night. It received, at last count, 81 "likes" and a half dozen kind comments -- one of my more popular Instagram posts, by far. That's pretty cool, and if you've been reading this blog for any significant period of time, you know how long it's taken to get to this place; you know what a winding road Jordan and I took to entrepreneurship and all it entails. The picture, then, is a nice happy ending (or beginning) to that story.

But in the essence of full disclosure, this weekend -- the first-ever nationally-recognized Independent Bookstore Day -- wasn't all sunshine and balloons. In fact, the week leading up to Saturday was one of the more stressful in my brief entrepreneurial career. One of my two employees had a family emergency, and the other is in school part-time; their absences left me alone in the shop for much of the week, with bills to pay, social media to run, and loose event ends to tie up -- a stark reminder that maybe, just maybe, I'm in a little over my head. My mom came to my rescue on Tuesday, helping to put up new displays and greet customers, but otherwise, I felt a little like a one woman show. And despite some incredibly stellar sales days and my penchant for independence, it was not fun. Juggling all the balls alone never is.

Friday night, Jordan and I cut our date night short to create a dozen literary-inspired wine labels and to prep the store for the big day. It's always fun to be in the store together, and as Jordan put away drinks and I drew on chalkboards, he reminded me what joy I get from preparation, how the day before a party has always been my favorite. (I would, to my chagrin, much rather prep a party than attend one.) 

So much of running the bookstore is a lesson in hospitality. A few years ago, I had people in my home multiple times a week. I hosted countless parties. We celebrated milestone upon milestone with pancakes and potlucks and board games. It was, as Jordan frequently puts it, "the year of the pineapple."

That doesn't happen much anymore. Instead, this month, we hosted a dozen events at the store. We were open late several evenings, greeting authors and new-to-us customers. I pushed my small staff to their limits, and I've been reminded, over and over again, that hospitality isn't just about opening my home. It's about the atmosphere I create at the store.

So this weekend, we had a party. And it wasn't at our home, and it wasn't with our friends. We celebrated at the store, surrounded by strangers. Everyone was happy. We served coffee and cupcakes and wine. There were prizes and balloons and matching t-shirts. All in all, I suppose it was as wonderful as the Instagram picture suggests. But all the filters in the world don't change how stressful this job can be, how hard it is day in and day out to run a business and a life.

Next week, fingers crossed, I'm headed to the beach for a few days. I need it. I love running the store, and I love selling books, but even those of us living out our dreams need a vacation every now and then. It's been a crazy few weeks, and Indie Bookstore Day was a nice reminder that if push comes to shove, I can try to do it all, perhaps even successfully -- but that doesn't mean I should.

And a side note, to those of you who visited your locally-owned, independent bookstores on Saturday: Thank you. This past Saturday was a success not because of all the preparation and legwork we did, but because of people like you who chose to show up. Indie Bookstore Day was important for me as an entrepreneur because it showed me I'm not in this alone, and the work I do, while perhaps never reviewed in a staff meeting or recognized with a pay increase, is important and appreciated by the people who choose to shop there. You made Indie Bookstore Day a pleasure, and that smiling face in the picture up there? It's there because of you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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