Some of us, of a certain age, can recall a time when our downtown areas were filled with mom and pop stores — less of the commercialized franchises, and more of the community. I can remember as a small child going with my grandmother as she stopped by the butcher (where I would always ask for – and more often than not get – the Boston Fruit Slice treats), the fish market, and local farm stands. She preferred buying from these local merchants that greeted her by name than from the supermarket. I can also remember how nice it was to stop in our local bookstores where the salespeople, our neighbors in the community, would smile and tell you they got a new book in that they know we would like. This familiarity for our neighbors and community – smiles and greetings by name, understanding our preferences as a friend would, and the uniqueness of the downtown area – like the beating heart of the town – is something I miss.
I shop now and see strangers whom I don’t see around my town. I enter massive chains that have wiped out the butchers and fish markets, replaced the local diners and pharmacies, and almost pushed out the indie bookstores. My hometown still has one of these gems called Book Ends and I participated in Town Day this weekend by doing a book signing with other local authors under the Book Ends tent.
The owner was there (not a huge corporation rep but a nice, knowledgeable woman named Judy Manzo whom is at her store daily) and the people who work for Book Ends were busy in the store and outside – waving hello to people passing by and helping the locals who were obviously regulars buying books from their favorite small town bookstore. It was nice to see the loyalty the townspeople had for this well-run, indie bookstore where you can buy the latest best seller, find a local author, peruse a large children’s section or pick up a unique gift.
I was proud to share the tent with other local authors with great books and interesting stories behind them:
Neal Sanders – An author with six mystery books including his garden club mysteries which propelled him into the garden club speaking circuit. I started reading his first book, Murder Imperfect, last night and was hooked from the very first line.
Joe McKendry – a gifted illustrator who had two amazing books available Beneath the Streets of Boston: Building America’s First Subway and One Times Square: A Century of Change at the Crossroads of the World – winner of a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award for 2012!
Tatiana Holway – whose historically rich book The Flower of Empire holds an amazing but true life discovery in the Amazon of a gigantic water lily that sparked a race to get one of these incredible specimens back to Victorian England alive and bring it to bloom.
So, on this incredibly hot and sunny day, I shared this tent with some amazing authors, learned about their books, sold some of my own, witnessed the loyalty and pleasure townsfolk took in supporting their local bookstore, and was glad to see that the indie bookstore is still alive and well – and the heart of some special small towns.