This one? This one, too? How about this one?

The other day at Portrait I was asked about how it is that we seem to know every single book on our shelves. Some people have offered that we don’t actually read all of them, that we just read reviews and synopses and manufacture opinions about the book based on our interpretation of these, then present these opinions as if they were formed after days and days of being buried in the pages of the book in question. Not so. We do read them. Our store is very small and compared to the big boxes, or even other independent bookstores, our stock is also limited. Limited or not, we have a lot of books– I once had to take all of them down for renovations and it took me one whole day. One whole 12-hour day. So how is it that you can point to any book and at least one of our eight-person staff will have read it? Even if the book was released just yesterday? The obvious answer is that we all love to read and the only prerequisite for employment at Portrait (besides being at least functionally insane or better) is being an avid reader.

The less obvious answer, and the one which is more or less romantic depending on your point of view, is that it is part of the job description. Really. This is why each of us takes so much pride in our work– we aren’t just store clerks charged with successfully completing transactions. We’re required to read and have opinions about every single book we sell. In a sense, besides working during the hours of our shifts, we also work from home. I happen to think that’s quite extraordinary and being someone loath to brag, I say that with a great deal of care.

I suppose I’m feeling pretty sentimental to be writing this for the world to see. Twenty four years for a small bookstore is no small feat. Julie and Frank and every one who has called this place home throughout the years have all lovingly and unabashedly poured pieces of themselves into these walls.  I suspect that, with the guidance of the kind, knowledge-seeking and solace-providing spirits that reside here, it will exist for many many years to come. Because it’s important to have a place to find refuge in where your hosts know their home inside out, where guided tours through unknown realms are the norm, where you know they care– not because it’s good company policy to appear like they do, but because they just do.

Happy Birthday, Julie. Happy Birthday, Portrait of a Bookstore, the little bookstore that could.


Filed under The Other Day at Portrait...

3 responses to “This one? This one, too? How about this one?

  1. bj

    I am momentarily speechless- yes, I know that it is hard to believe, but you have so eloquently captured the essence of who we are that there are not any words left on the planet to say it any better than what you have already done.
    A Toast to the bookstore, our little Brigadoon on earth, forever may she welcome all whom want to enter.

  2. Lilly

    Happy Birthday to Us !!!!!! And a special thank you to our Customers — Oh, Customers — you have no idea how thrilling it is, waking up, knowing I’m going to be at the store today, with the books, from our Antiquarian volumes to brand new releases, so hot off the press I could swear the pages are still warm to the touch — the music (from Anonymous 4, Debussy or Stravinsky to Howlin’ Wolf or some Thievery Corporation, Fleet Foxes, or maybe Hawaiian slack key guitar or Dick Dale on a hot summer night, depending on the mood), and the chance to see all of you and show you the latest treasures Julie’s brought back from her jaunts around the globe, and the latest books – (some of which I do not see on the shelves of even the most hippest bookstore). Simply put, I can’t wait to hear what all of you have been up to, and see your smiling faces…. Your Friendly Neighborhood Bookseller, Lilly

  3. Donna

    I am so proud to be a part of this lovely enterprise called Portrait of a Bookstore.

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