Tonite, after ten years in Cleveland, our store will gather for its last holiday party. To say tonite will be bittersweet is the understatement of the decade.
We were never just a bookstore staff. Over the years we've become relationship counselors, shoulders to lean on, and partners in crime -- not only to each other, but also to our customers. Our favorite moments consisted of those conversations with other book lovers who were looking for a good read, a book for their mother, an "I'm sorry" gift for their partner, or an educational toy for their grandchild. We loved when customers came back, seeking us out for more advice after we'd been so helpful on their last visit. We remember hugging customers who were looking for a book to make sense of their grief, getting our cheeks pinched by little old ladies who were so ecstatic that we knew which book with the red cover they were looking for, and the smiles & little "thank you's" from toddlers who got their own bag with their own book inside. We relished buying someone a cup of coffee while we tackled their holiday book list, turning a Big Box Shopper into an Indie Supporter, and the challenge of finding a rare book through a long internet search. Author events, no matter how big or small, were always full of surprises & challenges and always made for the best stories.
For many of us, we saw our work family more than our real family and those bonds are just as strong as if we shared blood. We have found best friends, future bridesmaids & godparents, sounding boards, character references, and lifelong soulmates in each other. We have laughed, cried, yelled at and with each other. We have conspired with each other, collaborated on projects, and cooked for each other. We loved each other and turned that affection on our store to the tune of a 25% increase in top-line book sales, and a 10% increase in overall top-line store sales in a year when the critics declared death on the book industry. Ebooks, Kindles, and Amazon did not kill our spirit or our bookstore. In fact, they motivated us to do everything we could to control every bottom line factor. And we did. In the end, it was nothing we did or did not do as a staff that caused our closing. In the end, we went down fighting, kicking & screaming, the only way a bookstore should.
Tonite we will gather at to celebrate this year and to say goodbye to Joseph-Beth. Tonite will not, however, be a goodbye to each other. We cannot imagine dismantling this family of booksellers and friends and we are determined to not let losing our bookstore translate into losing each other. Bowling parties, happy hours, and potluck dinners will be a part of our future. We've made plans to visit each other at our new places of business and we started a Facebook group to stay in touch.
Tonite, we will take comfort in the death of our bookstore by celebrating the afterlife of our friendships.