Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bookselling Generations

This is all related to Greenlight Bookstore, but it's more a personal observation than a business one -- and it's all a bit scattered -- so I'm relating it here.

Greenlight Boosktore feels to me like the "next generation" of bookselling, in the best way. This is driven home by how involved the "parents" -- the generation that precedes us -- have been in helping the store come together.

Over the last few weekends, Betty and John Bennett (formerly of Bennett Books) and Susan Avery (formerly of Ariel Booksellers) have come to the store to help us with painting, book receiving, etc. These are folks Rebecca and I think of as our "bookseller parents" -- they've mentored us, counseled us, taught us, and set us an example of what a great bookstore can be. Though both of their stores are now closed and the owners have moved on to other literary projects, it felt like a seamless passing of the torch.

In addition, Cynthia of Archivia Books and other New York City booksellers have come out to volunteer and teach us what's what, helping to add another store to their ranks and building our community.

Last week Toby Cox of Three Lives -- my former boss at the first bookstore where I ever worked, the store where I fell in love with bookselling -- came to check on our progress. Three Lives will always feel a bit like home to me -- it's where I come from as a bookseller, and Toby has been one of my greatest mentors. He's a Fort Greene resident too, and has advised Rebecca and I a great deal, so his opinion means a lot. To see him get excited about the progress at Greenlight is kind of like having your dad congratulate you on a personal project -- though Toby's not really old enough to be my dad, he's a bookselling father figure in the best way.

And it gets even better. All of our wonderful staff have worked in bookstores in the past, and two of them worked in stores founded by their parents. It turns out that Jesse's mom, who owns Wild Rumpus, and Eleanor's mom, who runs Inkwood Books, are friends, and have found out with delight that their offspring are now both working at Greenlight. We joke that they're the "bookstore brats," having grown up in the business, and it's great to have the connection to two such wonderful stores. And the other stores that our employees come from -- Legacy Books, Bluestockings, Goehrings, others -- have taught them the skills that make them the awesome team of booksellers that our store needs.

All of this adds to the sense that our bookstore is in so many ways the child of the stores that have come before us. Some of those stores are still going strong, some have changed or closed for various reasons, but all of them have been sources of inspiration to us, and have created the world that Greenlight is being born into. This isn't to suggest that the older stores are on the way out -- on the contrary, many of them are still teaching us new innovations, and we're delighted to join them. It's merely to reflect with gratitude on the legacy of those who have laid the groundwork for what we're doing, who have helped to bring us into the world.

Thanks, folks. We hope to do you proud.