25 years at Barnes & Noble. I did the math, that’s over 5700 shifts! And how can I sum up my time there so far? Thousands of customers, and hundreds of thousands of books. Release parties and power outages and celebrities and hundreds of cups of coffee. And so very many coworkers, many who have become friends.
I got to meet and spend time with Anne Lamott, who wrote Bird By Bird, the first writing book I’d ever read. She is easily one of my favorite authors. She arrived later than expected into Syracuse for the Rosamond Gifford Lecture Series and we had her pre-sign some books in her hotel room beforehand. Although exhausted, she was gracious and fun while I held open each title page for her black sharpie signature.
Then there was the time we almost broke William Styron! He was doing a talk and signing and started feeling ill. We had to get him to the employee break room and call 9-1-1. Spoiler alert, he ended up being fine. I had a really great conversation about bookstores with Jean Stapleton when she was in town doing a play at Syracuse Stage. And I got up the nerve once and asked Stephen Stills if he needed help finding anything. He didn’t.
December 23 is one of the busiest days of the year for us at the bookstore. For a few years it was also the day Viggo Mortensen would make an appearance to do some DVD shopping before heading north to spend Christmas with his family. The first time it happened it was 10:50 pm and I was running register to help clear the building for the night. I asked, “Do you have a membership?” and the man gave me his phone number. “Mortensen?” I asked, realizing half a beat afterwards who I was talking to. He just smiled and paid. The next summer I was tracking a lost book for him. I had to ask him to repeat himself several times because he is just as soft spoken as he was as Walker Jerome in A Walk On The Moon, my fave Viggo movie, about the summer of ’69 at a resort in the Catskills. If you enjoyed Dirty Dancing, look it up
Many years ago one of my coworkers had recently retired from Time Magazine and came to work with us to learn how to run a bookstore. Bill Reilly then opened the river’s end bookstore in Oswego. My dad, my friend Katie, and I drove up there one day to help him unload his Ingram Distribution starter shipment and we helped him organize the books on the new empty shelves. 22 years later, that indie bookstore is still thriving and I love to stop in to visit with Bill, who always tells this story at independent bookstore conferences so they don’t think badly about the big box stores.
Special events and release parties have been really fun. We had several midnight parties for the later books in the Harry Potter Franchise, a cool party when the DVD release of the first Frozen movie came out, and a prom theme for one of the Twilight books (I can’t remember which one). Each of these gatherings were made special by the extra work and fun that the booksellers put into them. From decorations and costumes to endless energy and enthusiasm, these dedicated employees delighted everyone who attended. That’s one of the things I admire most about the people I work with. They want success and put so much work into events like these to make it so.
I am so grateful for the caring supportive environment I have been a part of for 25 years. I love working with the booksellers on my staff. I found out how much when we closed our doors in March and the staff were furloughed for a bit. We have brought back some but not all and it feels incomplete without everyone there, like waiting for my friends to make it to the party. They all bring gifts and talents that make us one of the best retailers in the country and I am blessed. I can’t say here’s to 25 more, but I can say I will be around to sell many more books!!