Today, we stop in at the Book Stop in Hood River, Oregon, for a chat with its dynamo owner Cynthia Christensen, a fast-reading, fast-talking former nurse and mother of three young women who also love books and work in the store. We once asked Christensen to describe Book Stop in three words, and she said: “Girls, girls, girls.”
She tells us that one day in April of 2005, she saw a For Lease sign in the display window of a downtown space in Hood River. “I rented it two days later, one day after telling my family ‘Guess what we’re doing. We’re opening a bookstore,’ and we were open five weeks later.”
Why an independent bookstore after spending all those years as a nurse? Short answer? 3,000 books in my house and the fact that, in general, books don’t leak. In fact, not once since we opened has a book leaked any type of body fluid on or near my person.
Are you hiring? I’ll tell you what I tell all job applicants. The first question on our job application is: “Did Cynthia, at any time, give birth to you or marry you?” Except for a privileged few, the answer is usually no. We thank them for their interest, and let them know that if their birth or marital status should change to meet the requirements we would be happy to speak with them again.
Store cat? NO! We have a dog, Lady, who seems mostly human, who is the most conscientious and charming greeter in the world. She can’t wait to get to work, snuggles with customers, lets kids ride her (reluctantly), and divides her time between demanding love from everyone in the place to finding a sunbeam in the courtyard to stretch out and sleep.
It seems redundant to ask at this point, but what makes your store unique? We are not a quiet bookstore! We like to discuss books with laughter and an excitement that is infectious. Also, we have only received one phone call from a rep in almost six years of business, someone from Penguin, I believe. This means that every book you see on our shelves has been hand picked by someone in my family, usually me. I order today for tomorrow. I read EVERYTHING about what books are coming and make my decisions based on what I know about the people who come into our store. Every bookstore is unique. What sells at Waucoma Bookstore (our neighbors) may be completely different from what would sell here, and vice versa. And I KNOW what my regulars will like and hate. When they walk in the door they might find that I’ve saved something especially for them. They like that and so do I. Who wouldn’t like it when people do what you tell them to do?
If Book Stop were a book, what book would it be? I have to be honest, I haven’t read the book, but I think A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius about sums us up. That doesn’t sound arrogant does it? How about You Shall Know Our Velocity. It doesn’t really make sense, but it sounds cool. Thanks Eggers.
What are some of the other businesses you frequent in your neighborhood? I never remember to pack a lunch. Luckily I have Hood River Bagels, Andrew’s Pizza, Ground Coffee and Cafe, among others to help me out in that area. If I sell out of a book and Waucoma has it in stock, I’ll either send customers up there or have my husband run up and grab a copy for them. Muir and Jenny usually give me a “special” discount. I am friends with most of the business owners, and I am a board member of the Hood River Downtown Business Council, so not only do I love to give them my business, it’s the right thing to do in a small town!
What’s the best lunch within walking distance? A couple of big cheesy breadsticks from Andrew’s, but instead of marinara sauce, I like to dip it in their caesar dressing! YUM!
Will you name a couple of books that have been popular handsellers at Book Stop recently? We sold over 300 Lee Child books this year. People LOVE them some Jack Reacher! Thanks to Kelsey, Maximum Ride FLEW (pun intended) out the door this year, as did The Lightning Thief series. Of course, Stieg Larsson was on our bestseller list, but our customers went NUTS for The Hunger Games books. At one time I was selling 10-15 copies of one or more of the books every day. We even had a sleepover for the Midnight release of Mockingjay, with over 25 girls reading all night long.
A CD that would make a great soundtrack for your store? A mixture of 40’s standards, mixed with Michael Buble, the Glee soundtrack, Willie Nelson and Friends, mixed with some Green Day, and light rap that won’t make Charlie grumble like some cantankerous old man from New Jersey yelling at the kids to get off his damn lawn.
Name a book blog or website you frequent? Shelf Awareness is a must, Bookseller Chick, Kimbooktu, ‘cuz I loves me some book gadgets, Bookalicious, I mean awesome name right, and every single bookstore website and/or blog I can possibly find, especially kelseylikesbooks.tumblr.com. I love booksellers. You inspire me every day!
Is there a question you wish we had asked you? How about: “What do you say to people who still come in asking for Twilight because their friends were SHOCKED, I tell you, SHOCKED, that they hadn’t read it yet and it was the best ever and OH MY GOD you HAVE TO READ IT RIGHT NOW, or something like that?” For my answer, I would warn them, much like the warning on the side of a pack of cigarettes, or a vat of anthrax, that the series is known to be hazardous to your health. We officially call them “The Worst Written Pieces of Crap the World Has Ever Been Obsessed With.” I tell them that I understand their need, the books are like heroin, you know that they’re bad for you, but you JUST CAN’T STOP! They need to just get it out of their systems and then enroll in my 12-step program, because I can think of at least a dozen recent fantasy and/or paranormal romance books that prove that young adult isn’t an age category, it’s a place anyone would want to visit.
Okay, last question, we’re going to take you up on that. Let’s hear the twelve books you’d recommend over Twilight.
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
The Search For WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
Genesis by Bernard Beckett
The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan