<since I’ve been in the Bay Area , I’m aware of a few occasions that happened out this way. That said, from what I’ve seen, not necessarily an easy path to pursue.>
“not necessarily an easy path to pursue?”
You retire from your well-paid but boring corporate or academic position, or you graduate from college or leave your last unsatisfactory job and, in either case, something comes over you and you say to yourself, “I’ve always loved old books. I’ll never have a better chance to follow my dream!”
It’s a tremendous risk – probably, other than the choice of a life partner, the biggest you’ve ever made. You research prices in your own “I’ve always loved old books” collection; you start attending yard sales and adding to the collection – which has suddenly become your stock in trade! Like a bear at hibernation time, you begin seeking a den.
Then it’s time!
The unforgettable smell of fresh-cut shelving, symbolizing so MANY hopes and dreams; the Grand Opening, attended by family, the few friends who have time, a couple of curious passersby, and maybe a homeless person or two. And the reception seems so positive, and you are, as Frank O’Hara might say, OVER THE MOON!
But somehow, after a decade or so, you realize that you won’t have time to write your novel while sitting in your shoppe, because all your time will be taken up by lonely retail bores, or by trying to negotiate ABE and Amazon’s Kafkaesque requirements so you can sell more $15 books.
And then one day you realize it’s over. You cream your own stock and fantasize an online-only business dealing in nothing but the finest books. Or maybe you’re already an online-only business and you begin looking for someone who will take over your marvelous, turn key operation – 25,000 carefully curated ISBN babies. With descriptions and photos. Value added!
You publish notice of your intentions on the IOBA chatline. “After an exciting and fulfilling career of ___ years, we’ve decided, with much regret, to retire from the trade.”
In your email subject line, you misspell “disposing” as “dispossing” and DOZENS of dealers respond – not with offers to buy, of course, but with stories of their own.
So many bores. And yet they’re dear bores. They’re OUR bores. It’s almost like having a retail shop again.
I’m not making any of this up. It happened to a guy I know who ran such a business for 15 years or so. When he folded up his tent, I asked him why he was quitting. He told me he was getting tired of the business.
I realized then that he was never really one of us, because no matter how “tired” we think we are, we can’t quit, no matter how much we think we want to. He might as well have been selling hot dogs or shoes.
For What It’s Worth (or, FWIW – thanks, Vic), and just so I don’t sound like quite as complete a jerk, I must add the fact that the above guy actually succeeded in selling his business. Something I’d tried, and failed to do at least half a dozen times. The people who bought this fellow’s business were wiser than book dealers. They launched a social service agency within a used book ambiance. Book clubs, kiddie story hours, afternoon teas, guest speakers, tourist advice… all the things my Main St. book & mortar shops should’ve been doing all along…
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