[editor’s note] We have a new bookseller aboard. Bob Lewis comes to us from Ontario, Canada and will be adding his views and experiences to our site, thanks for sharing your bio here Bob.
I spent my first 8 years in England near Codicote – a village founded by the Romans just north of London. When I was 8 the lady next door taught me to read – took her about 6 weeks – Mrs. Batts, a retired school teacher – I’ll be grateful to her forever.
That was in ’56, just before we moved to Canada. For this (among other things) I’ll be grateful to my parents forever.
In 63 I got interested in world politics, environment and religion, proceeded to get very depressed, quit school and spent the next few years working on farms (Peace River), in factories, logging camps, (Queen Charlotte Islands) etc. Reading all the while, of course. Huxley’s ‘Doors of Perception’ inspired me to look into the 60’s drug culture which introduced me to Eastern thought, broke me of seeing the world from a strictly ‘logical’ perspective, and enriched my life immeasurably.
In ’83 my partner and I bought a country general store on a summer tourist route in a little hamlet called Sylvan in southern Ontario – maybe 25 people. We did well for a while, followed by a 5 year period during which our road was closed for the better part of 4 summers. We closed the store and it slowly filled up with ‘stuff’.
Meanwhile, a friend (Scott Davidson) and I had started a weekly newspaper. We did that for about 2 years. The paper was extremely well received but neither of us was any good at selling ads, which is where the money is. We used to fantasize about winning the lottery and not having ads. Since neither of us bought tickets, that didn’t happen. We never made any money, and eventually had to give it up.
I played around with desktop publishing and other things for a couple of years, worked for an overnight courier service, and then one day I was reading the classifieds and saw an ad for a used book store. I knew I couldn’t afford it, but phoned anyway. The young woman who had started it had been accepted to university and had just a couple of weeks left on the lease. I got a great price payable over a few months, it was April, summer was coming, and I had an empty store. 12,000 books – not a bad starter assortment, wood shelves, and cash register, all for $2000. A lifelong fantasy had just fallen into my lap.
I was only 4 miles from home when I saw the new sign – road closed for bridge repairs. Six weeks that summer for repairs and ALL of the next summer while they replaced it. Money was getting a little tight, and a few months later, I was persuaded to try to sell my books.
As a result of my ad, (a separate story) I ended up buying another used book store – 12,000 books, wood shelves, etc. from a young woman who had been accepted to university – and I was finally in the ‘biz’. Finally got the home store up and running, and then sold the other one.
A few years later, after a reasonably amicable parting of the ways, I moved next door, (there are 2 houses attached to the store). I’m still only 50 feet from ‘work’. Sheila’s house is now as neat and tidy as she likes it, and my house has easily navigable trails between the shelves and the boxes of books. I am happier than I have been in a long time – even happier than the two years I spent in a log cabin in northern Ontario.
I have some books on Biblio, but otherwise I don’t bother with internet selling. Listing books well is tedious and I don’t do tedious if I can avoid it. I much prefer the store. The books I sell on the internet mostly don’t sell to the clientele that comes to the store – and vice-versa. Of course, I’d sell a lot more books if I moved to a better location, but that would mean getting up earlier to get to work, and working harder when I got there, and all this would cut seriously into my reading time.
Fortunately for me I am very comfortable at the lower end of the economic ladder – used books, used clothes,
old van. I do all my own building, wiring, plumbing, etc, Keep possessions to a minimum (except books, lol.) and seldom buy anything new.
My store is called ‘Sylvan’s Foremost Bookstore’. I read somewhere that if you make the category small enough, you can be at the top of it. That’s me – a big fish in the smallest puddle I could find.
In a later blog I’ll tell you more about my store. My store is not a success by any standards except mine, which is the only standard I care about. The truth is, while I enjoy talking to the customers – most of them, anyway – and the bit of money that comes in is nice, the real reason for having the store is that it gives me an excuse to buy books.
More to come…