Three or four times a week a new salesperson comes to town, or it’s a rookie school donation seeker, or, occasionally, an unhappy gift recipient. They casually stroll in, survey the assembled staff and customers, and when their eyes alight on the old tired-looking guy in the corner they will step up and ask, “Are you the owner?”
I never know quite how to answer this herald. There is a natural temptation to duck, and redirect them to Cindy or Garry or whomever else is around. And there is always the flat out denial, “He’s not in,” but that’s a short no-win game. All the same, when I reluctantly nod and admit, I always feel like I am sort of pretending.
It is hard for me to imagine “owning” Island Books. It exists because a whole lot of people have wanted it to exist. First, it was Lola Deane. Forty years ago, it was her intention, chutzpah, and hard work that gave the store its first form. A group of friends (Andrea, Phyliss, Sally, Julia, etc.) helped with the early heavy lifting, and then it was afloat. Lola moved on and handed the tiller to Marge, Fam, and Elinor. Soon after that, I arrived. But these are just names of players. If you counted them all, maybe eighty people have worked at the store. Smart, fabulous, lively people who have dedicated decades to the store. But then, what about the dozens and dozens of people who have helped with Harry Potter parties, book signings, or late night carpet laying? What about the generations of residents and their love and intention that the store thrive and remain?
There are now thousands of people who have left their mark, played their part, made it possible. I can’t own that. But I have witnessed much of it.
This month, as we approach our anniversary, I will try to share some stories of the past on our website and Facebook. Here’s the first one, about the front door of Island Books. They are just one set of stories. We all have a few, and I suspect there are many better than mine. Please reach back and step up.
I invite you all in the spirit of co-ownership to share your stories at a 40th anniversary pie potluck on November 3rd, between 3 and 6pm. Come wax nostalgic in your other “living room:” Island Books.
Owner and Bookseller at Island Books, Mercer Island, WA
Borrowed from Island Books’ October Happenings newsletter. Subscribe to the enewsletter to get messages from Roger & co. directly to your inbox.