The way Inklings Bookshop owner Susan Richmond tells it, it sounds like a bookish child’s fantasy. As a four-year-old, she would cruise the aisles of an empty library after hours, sliding out books and carefully leaving a space so she’d know where to re-shelve them.
It’s not fiction, though. Richmond’s mother had taken a part-time job cleaning the library in her hometown of North Bend, Washington. After library hours, her mother took young Susan with her while she worked. “I spent many, many happy hours oblivious to the vacuum cleaner buzzing around me,” Richmond says.
Inklings’ first location had an ambiance that Richmond describes as “every bookseller’s dream.” Upstairs in an old fruit warehouse, it had wood floors, big, exposed beams, and skylights, but it lacked the traffic Inklings needed to survive.
In 2006, when a great location became available at a major intersection, across the sidewalk from Starbucks, the bookstore traded track lights, wood floors and an espresso bar for fluorescent lights, carpet and buying our coffee.
Their traffic has nearly doubled.
In 2009, a year that many independent bookstores were happy just to break even, Inklings’ sales were up by 15 percent over last year. Richmond, ever humble, credits her staff. “The longer I sell books,” she says, “the more I realize that I can’t do this alone. All those increased sales were made by dedicated hand-sellers who made it happen.”
Though most of the staff of 10 are trained as frontline booksellers, Richmond says they have gradually evolved into having specific tasks for each staff member. “Things like gift ordering, displays, magazines, bestseller and Indiebound lists, technology, reviews, receiving, signage, cleaning, website and e-newsletter, teacher relationships, author events and myriad other tasks are not just done, but done very, very well by wonderful people who seem to really love their job,” Richmond says.
“Once in awhile,” Richmond says, “I read a book.” When we talked with her last January, she had recently read Labor Day by Joyce Maynard, 31 Hours by Marsha Hamilton and The Help by Kathryn Stockett.
Richmond somehow finds time to participate in a book group, which she says “stretches me to have more variety in my reading diet.” Richmond shared their reading schedule for this year:
What would any indie bookstore worth its salt be without Staff Recommendations? Five Inklings staff members shared their favorite recent reads when we talked with them last winter:
by Maggie Stiefvater
“Hey, you, Twilight fans. Try this! I loved this book because it feels like you become the characters, and start to think the way they think. And you become aware of the cold. As it gets colder and colder, it becomes harder and harder for Sam to resist turning into his wolf form. Every winter he could be seen in Grace’s yard, in the woods behind her house. She knew the wolf with the yellow eyes was special, but she didn’t know how special until he stumbled into her house in human form. Everything is great until Grace realizes there’s something Sam isn’t telling her, a secret that could change their lives forever.”—Renee Navarrete
By Maryse Condé
“Rosélie is a woman who finds home in her companion. This tendency has led her across the globe from her native Guadeloupe to mainland France and beyond. Finally somewhat settled in Cape Town, Rosélie must rediscover herself when her husband Stephen is murdered. The more his death is investigated, the more Rosélie finds she has to discover about Stephen. In post-apartheid South Africa, the fact that Rosélie is black and that her husband was white holds significance for her community and adds an interesting dynamic to the story. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.” —Rachel Jones
by Anne Tyler
“It is so satisfying to begin a new Anne Tyler novel, knowing I will once again become part of a family just like my own. This family will be sometimes amusing and sometimes dull, with at least one quirky person who doesn’t quite fit in. Liam Pennywell has been “let go” as a teacher and soon after wakes up in the hospital after an assault he can’t remember. Liam meets socially challenged Eunice, who adds excitement and meaning to his emotionally-detached life. This is the Anne Tyler I always look forward to, with humor and melancholy and insight.”—Sue Domis
by Paula Uruburu
“Evelyn Nesbit was the most recognized face of the early twentieth century. Nesbit was an advertising and an artist’s model who started her career at fourteen, and whose charm sold everything from Coca-Cola to tooth powder. She was Charles Dana Gibson’s “Eternal Question,” a Broadway star, and the face of L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables (the author found inspiration after spying a photo of Nesbit in a magazine). But she became infamous through her involvement with Stanford White, an architect whose buildings transformed the Gilded Age’s New York, and who was murdered very publically by Nesbit’s crazy first husband. Filled with rich historical detail and surprisingly resonant parallels to our own media-obsessed century, Paula Uruburu’s biography is so engaging that it reads like a novel. It would make a terrific book club selection, with plenty of fodder for discussion.” —Adam Jones
(Storey Publishing, 2009)
by Rebecca Yaker and Patricia Hoskins
“More often than not crafters and sewers have a stray yard of fabric here and there after completing projects. Most are dedicated hoarders that hang on to that piece until the right projects come along . . . Well, here they are! This “wonder”-ful how-to book is the perfect cure to a fabric hoarder’s tribulations. With a yard of fabric and a moment to spare anyone can be a “One-Yard Wonder!”—Mimi Applebaum