A couple of years ago on a Sunday in August a young mom and her toddler came into the kids’ section where Nancy and I were working. She looked vaguely familiar to us and we greeted her. It turned out that she had grown up on the island and had just moved back to the neighborhood; she was now introducing her own child to the playhouse. “You know, you can never close this store,” she said with warm sternness. “It has to be here forever.” Now, Nancy and I had heard this kind of talk before. We took it as love but not too seriously.
We had no intention of closing the store. We were in the second of the three best years of its over forty-year history. We were busy every day. I’d had over thirty stimulating years since I started as a gift wrapper, and the last fifteen years with Nancy working beside me in the shop were just plain fun. But the heartfelt words of that younger generation got us wondering what kind of plan we should make for the future.
Time on our lease was dwindling; we were getting grayer; our kids had left the nest. We could manage a few more years of traveling over hill and dale from Ballard, but not forever. So we began to ask two questions: What would it take to create new chapters for our story? And what kind of person should we find to help write those chapters? We spent a year talking to other bookstores and consultants. We realized, perhaps not surprisingly, Island Books was beloved common ground on a diverse island and that it would benefit from a local person who understood and loved its varied and unique character. We also knew that running a retail shop and a bookstore in particular would take someone with an adaptive, can-do spirit.
We set about creating a detailed description of how we operate, secured a longer lease, and got a great new neighbor in Homegrown. We were almost ready to solicit the community when … we got lucky. A familiar and well-liked customer sort of hinted one day about her dream of running a community-oriented business. We sort of hinted back. After a couple of months we were talking. Then we were planning. For the last three months, Laurie Raisys has been working in the store. On July 1, we officially passed the torch, and made her the fourth fortunate owner and steward of Island Books.
Laurie is a longtime Mercer Islander who has the warmth, creativity, integrity, and confidence that the store needs to carry it far into the future. She also has our trust and affection. We have signed on to stay and will be working for her, just trading hats. She will wear the hat decorated with the joys, dreams, and challenges of ownership. Nancy and I will be in bookseller caps, trying to entertain the masses and do right by you. The staff is staying too. You can pester all of us: Cindy, Lori, Kay, Marni, James, Marilyn, Miriam, Laurie, Nancy, and me. It’s musical chairs, not a curtain call or a revolution.
And so, members of our beloved community, old friends and new faces alike, let’s celebrate the continuation of our shared legacy.
We can’t thank you enough for the years of goodwill and generosity. Looking forward to swapping more stories.
See you at the counter,