A good number of people come in the store and wonder aloud how great a job it must be to run a bookstore. The answer, in short: it’s a dream job. From here many of these same book-lovers ask how I got into the business, so here’s the history of The Bookstore Lady.
When it first occurred to me that being a bookseller would be a pretty rad way to earn a living, I was a high schooler, and I was in the very bookstore I now run. I was sitting by the window in the book loft on a rainy Saturday, looking down at the alley below. Yeah, I could do this, I thought to myself. And let’s be honest, with multiple-librarian family who dressed their only daughter as a bookworm for her first Halloween, what choice did I have?
My first bookstore gig was at Second Story Books in Dupont Circle, Washington DC. It carried only used books that were shelved and stacked in every available space and with questionable logic. We had first editions and rare copies that were locked in a series of glass cases, and each had its own set of keys, identical to all the others on one comically large key ring. I never guessed right one on the first try. I was always put on the weeknight closing shift with G–, because no one else could stand him, but I would listen to him talk about his cats.
A few years later I got a job at The Globe Corner Bookstore in Cambridge, Mass, which carried travel guides, travel literature, and maps of everywhere. The store was arranged geographically, and to this day I know where Togo is because of where it was shelved in the Africa section. We each had our specialty, and I had a lock-down on domestic and Canada travel; my coworkers were much more adventurous. Tall blond Dan played drums in Central Africa, got bed bugs, and learned traditional dances. Vegetarian Nicole nearly starved on a trip to Iceland. Sweet Lisa chased down a mugger on a train between Hungary and Romania and beat him with the purse he’d snatched.
When I moved to New York City I worked at PowerHouse Arena, a bookstore in DUMBO, Brooklyn that sells art books published by PowerHouse Publishing plus an eccentric collection of kids books and paperbacks for adults. All the other booksellers were really aspiring authors. My manager was from Germany and all her requests sounded like insults. The store hosted big-name authors who I smiled at from afar, and one morning when I was the only one there, Benicio del Toro bought a book of Helen Levitt’s photography.
When I moved back home to Mansfield, it seemed only natural to gravitate toward Main Street Books. I was right; it was the only possible next chapter.