I am not ashamed to admit how little I know about the business I am starting, but my ignorance of some things even surprises me. I learned this week that, though my address is in the downtown center of a busy county seat, the U.S. Postal Service will not to deliver mail to me. It turns out that several blocks of downtown Pittsboro have been excluded from mail delivery for many years. We used to have a post office one block from the main street, but some time ago the post office moved a mile away, leaving downtown businesses no way to get mail other than by driving out of town to collect from a post office box. Not only that, but mail correctly addressed to me is being returned to sender, including my first power and water bills.
So, of course I had to rent a P.O. box this week, adding to my list of unexpected expenses. And changing my business address on many new accounts is added to my list of unexpected time wasters. I am not going to rant about the post office, or how (with all the paperwork I’ve completed for local officials) someone might have saved me a lot of trouble if they had mentioned this bizarre condition, but I could.
Sorting through books fills many hours every day, and the process isn’t helped by the seductive pull of an unfamiliar title. Come, the Restorer, by William Goyen, a lost gem of 70s magical realism; or Elliot Paul’s Life and Death of a Spanish Town about the opening of the Spanish Civil war; or Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King about the building of Florence’s medieval cathedral are some of what have caught my eye. Each of these books kept me from working this week, arresting progress at various times, and leading me to wonder why I hadn’t come across these before. The answer, of course, is that there are too many books, as any trip to Barnes and Noble can confirm. But the minimum that’s required of any bookseller is that he should know something about the books he sells, right? So a few moments of research, spaced throughout a day of sorting, pricing and shelving, can’t be completely disallowed.
I am now targeting October 20 as Opening Day, with October 27th as the Grand Opening, as we have a street fair downtown on that day. My chances of getting the store ready by then seem less remote today, as I have now finished one room. This is the space I’ve assigned to the mystery/ thriller/suspense books, the horror/fantasy/science fiction books and the romances – all the mass market paperbacks, more or less. For the first time I have a clear idea of what I have and what I need. For example, I have 135 Tom Clancy books, but zero by Henning Mankell. I have 60 Tony Hillermans, by just one by Eric Ambler. After a comment last week from Diane, I made a point of finding books by Laura Lippman, Jan Burke and S. J. Rozan, but none of these are as well represented as Sue Grafton, who registers 75 books in the inventory: “T is for Too Many.”
Next week I’ll sort through the horror/fantasy/science fiction books and try to keep Steven King from strangling all the other books in his section.