Thursday, December 31, 2009

Buying Local

The Decatur Metro blog recently had a discussion based on "My Year of Shopping Locally," a Mother Nature Network article written by Avondale resident Patti Ghettzi.  The author detailed problems regarding availability, customer service, and prices when attempting to purchase goods from local merchants.  (Patti also notes that she patronizes "several fantastic locally owned shops, including a children’s bookstore, a toy store and a gift shop."  Yay, us!)

Downtown Decatur lost a good number of businesses in 2009, and I am deeply saddened by the loss of many.  By Hand South was a wonderful store that closed after 20 years.  Whit's End will soon be locking its doors after three years.  Brenda had a truly great craft gallery; Jeff and Greg had a terrific selection of men's clothing and knew their customer base.  Maybe, just maybe, these two businesses did not survive this recession because not enough people realized that these were excellent shops and that they were important for our community.

Within that context, I want to elaborate on one post within the blog's thread.  The following is from George:
Consumers have an amazing ability to do the calculus of ‘value’ without even (consciously) realizing it. That’s why free markets work so incredibly well.
I’m sure we all agree that local/small businesses have to deliver something more in that equation (whether convenience, customer service, nostalgia, prestige, product selection, whatever) in order to compete. I love that locals stand a fighting chance by focusing on some of these dimensions. But what I resent/regret is the position (admittedly rarely taken, so notable in its occurrence) that consumers will buy local simply because a business is “local”.
As local consumers, we owe you nothing for your proximity or your size. But if you figure out which of these other value dimensions is important to us, there’s ample proof that the community will support you.

I am in total agreement with all of this except the last point; there is ample proof that some good businesses will fail in an economic downturn.  We're smaller.  We're more vulnerable.

Part of the calculus that individuals should consider when making buying decisions is a consideration of the type of community we want to live in.  Local business add to our tax base, increase our property values, and give our city character.  We put money back into our communities by supporting other local businesses and institutions.  Shopping locally can save transportation costs and time.

Keep shopping local.  Explore.  Give all of us a chance to earn your business.

In particular, shop your local bookstores.

[Excuse me, but I'm about to go on at length here, even though I did edit this part down.  Considerably.]

It was a tough year for booksellers, whether local or foreign, big box or independent, big city or small town, old or new, general or specialty, large scale or tiny, for profit or non-profit.

Right here in Decatur, Indie Coffee & Books and Wordsmiths closed in 2009.

Further away, Borders (UK) Limited, a former subsidiary of Borders in the U.S., closed all 45 of its stores in December.  Winnipeg's McNally Robinson, our co-winner in the Neil Gaiman Graveyard Book Halloween Party contest and long considered Canada’s best independent bookseller, filed for bankruptcy protection last week and announced that it will close two of its four stores.

Barnes & Noble is closing all of their remaining B. Dalton stores by the end of January.  Borders is closing most of their Borders Express and Waldenbooks.  Both of the big box chains have been bleeding money.  While I don't feel sorry for these guys, the upshot is that many towns and cities -- perhaps scores of communities -- will now be without a bookstore of any kind.  In two weeks, the residents of Loredo, Texas (a quarter-million of them) will have a 150-mile drive to the nearest bookstore, in San Antonio.

"A town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but without a bookstore it knows it's not fooling a soul."  Neil Gaiman, from American Gods, which Time Magazine listed as one of its ten best books of the decade.

Other recent casualties include Outward Bound, Indianapolis’ gay bookstore, and Lambda Rising, the only GLBT bookstore in Washington, D.C.  The Toronto Women’s Bookstore, a 27-year-old non-profit, needs to raise a significant amount of cash through donations or close.  Gem’s Gems, a non-profit children’s bookstore in El Paso, closed in December, as did Red Raven, a used bookstore in Sandusky, Ohio.

Lee Booksellers, a Lincoln, Nebraska institution, is closing after 30 years for want of a buyer.  Leo’s Book Shoppe closed following 42 years in downtown Toledo.  Throughout their histories, Lee and Leo's had one pair of owner each.  Hendersonville, North Carolina’s Mountain Lore Books & More, purchased by a new owner just one year ago, locked its doors this week.

Despite losses, Decatur has Little Shop and Books Again (as well as an excellent library).  Eagle Eye and Blue Elephant are nearby, as are Charis, A Cappella, Outwrite, Tall Tales, and Bound To Be Read.  We're all competing against one Borders and soon to be three nearby Barnes and Noble stores.

We at Little Shop feel incredibly fortunate that we are located in the heart of Decatur and that, even in these difficult times, we have been able to grow and thrive.  Thanks for supporting us.  Keep it up.  (Please!)

And a Happy New Year to all!

- Dave

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

He Knows if You've Been Reading...



Twas the Night Before Christmas--Little Shop Edition

Twas the night before the night before Christmas
When all through the bookstore
Decaturites were gathering, shopping for more.

The books were placed on the shelves with care
In hopes the customers would come and shop there.

The children were eager for stories before bed
While visions of Skippy and Olivia danced in their heads.

When up on the roof there arose such a clatter
We threw down our books to see what was the matter.

When what to our wondering eyes should appear
But Dave and Diane, the owners so dear.

Cheering for their hard-working staff in all their fame,
They whistled and shouted and called them by name:

"Now Krista! Now Terra! Now Justin and Cal!
On Sydney! On Marcy! On Matt and on Al!

"This year was awesome and here's the proof--
The Halloween party, Neil Gaiman and a huge tree on our roof!

"Judy Schachner ate cat food, Rick Riordan spoke,
Dogs came to storytime and Jeff Kinney told jokes.

"We haunted the basement, we read stories each week
We helped you find the perfect books that you seek.

"Upstairs we had camps and birthday parties galore
And next year we promise all this and more."

Then Santa appeared and he gave a huge smile,
"Little Shop is the best!" and the whole crowd went wild.

He met every child and tossed books from his sack
And promised everyone he would always come back.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a yell
And away they all flew like a bat out of hell.
But I heard him exclaim as he turned back to look,
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good book!"


Come hear Santa read the real story tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 7pm at our Night Before the Night Before Christmas Storytime.

--Krista, Cal, Al and Justin

Diane's Top 5 Christmas Book Countdown, Part 5

I wanted to blog about this book:


McDuff's New Friend
 by Rosemary Wells

But- son of a nutcracker!- it's no longer in print.

So, here's our final book:


The Nutcracker

Here's what both books have in common- they are both illustrated by the super fantastic Susan Jeffers, one of my favorite illustrators that you might not know about.  Susan has done some other non-Christmas related picture books that are Little Shop faves like



and
and




I was first introduced to Jeffers work when Nick was a baby (he's now going on 14) when we began reading the awesomely sweet McDuff series by Rosemary Wells, which are the stories of a Westie with attitude who loves to eat vanilla rice pudding with sausages on top.  I never considered myself a small dog person but after seeing how beautifully Jeffers could capture the expressions of this spirited and spunky little fellow, I now know that some day I will have a Westie to call my own.  And I will definitely name him McDuff- or perhaps D-Duff, which is what Nick called him.

Long story short is this:  I am so so sad that the McDuff books are going away.  They were little treasures.

Fortunately for all of us, however, we still have lots more of Jeffers' work to gaze at.  Her rendition of The Nutcracker is the best I've ever seen.  The Nutcracker can be a possibly long and complex story but Jeffers' simple text makes this a perfect selection for a younger child just being introduced to the story, especially prior to seeing the ballet. 

And it is a feast for the eyes, as well!  The soft color palette she works in is so lovely, just like the Sugar Plum Fairy.  Her watercolors are dreamy and romantic, yet in a wonderfully child friendly way.  It is certain to become a Christmas classic.

Hope you've enjoyed reading about my favorite Christmas books.  There are so many more!  Perhaps I can share them with you next year?

Merry Christmas to All!
-Diane

Monday, December 21, 2009

We're a Decorate Decatur Winner!


Little Shop of Stories, Steinbeck's and U-Joint in Oakhurst, and the shops and restaurants of West Ponce, were businesses named winners of Decorate Decatur!  As noted: "The return of the beloved downtown Decatur Christmas tree is a special gift enthusiastically welcomed by the community."  [See Krista's blog to read about the story of the tree.]  Thanks, judges!

La Noche de las Librerías

If you happened to be in Buenos Aires this past Saturday, you would perhaps have come across one of the great literary events in the world.  It's Bookstore Night!  Several blocks of the Avenida Corrientes are closed to traffic.  Sofas and chairs are set up.  And people read.  They listen to lectures.  (Note the video screens.)  They participate in panel discussions.

How cool is that!
Daren, what do you think?
Could it happen here?
Decatur: There's A Festival For That!

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Let me just tell you, I love "Of-The-Month Clubs" so much. For Christmas two years ago my mom signed me up for the Wine-of-the-Month Club. Every month for a whole year two bottles of wine from around the world, one white and one red, were delivered to my doorstep. It was a glorious wine-filled year. Last December I reciprocated by giving my mom a membership to the Mother-Daughter-of-the-Month Club, which basically meant that we hung out once a month, trying new restaurants, seeing plays, taking cooking classes, and even weekending in Charleston. Terra's fiance Scott gave Terra's sister a Soap of the Month Club, and her best friend got a Cheese of the Month Club last year. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

The best part about these gifts is that they literally keep on giving. Think about it. It's March and rainy and there's nothing to celebrate, and then wham, a block of smoked Gouda is left on your porch. It's July and you need to bring some wine to your sister's engagement party, and luckily you have a nice Riesling chilling in your fridge. It's October and you're curled up by the fire, wondering what to read, when the postman knocks on your door with a fantastic book, hand picked by your friendly neighborhood Little Shop of Stories employees.


The last example is why I'm writing this blog entry. We have three different Book-of-the-Month Clubs here at Little Shop, and they make the best gifts for the book lovers in your life. Here's the skinny:

Build Your Library
Books we love and think everyone should own--appropriate for ages 0-6
Examples of the kinds of books selected: Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen, A Family of Poems by Caroline Kennedy, and the Frog and Toad Collection by Arnold Lobel
Cost: $165. Cost with shipping: $250.

 Adventure Books
A mixture of new action-packed hard covers and fantastic paper backs for strong readers ages 8-11
Examples of the kinds of books selected: The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, and The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo.
Cost: $145. Cost with shipping: $200

Bookaholics
Books pulled from one (or both) of our grown up book clubs, either the Catch-All Book Group or the book club for Guys Who Read
Examples of the kind of books selected: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane, and When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
Cost: $165. Cost with shipping: $220

Basically, every month you'll get a fantastic (gift wrapped) book. And I don't need to tell you that we have pretty good taste here at Little Shop of Stories. But if you have already read the book, you can exchange it for something else. And if you live in the city limits of Decatur, we'll deliver it to your door, or we'll call you when it's ready and give you an excuse to come into the shop. So join the club and treat someone (or yourself) to a year of books!

This could be you.



--Krista

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Stinky Cheese Man Assesses 2009



Author Jon Scieszka -- The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales being one of his many great books -- is finishing up his two-year role as the Library of Congress' National Ambassador of Young People's Literature.  He writes of his tenure here, and sums up the past year's literature in this letter published by the L.A. Times.

Jon has long been an advocate for encouraging kids to read, with a special emphasis on reluctant boy readers.  He is pleased with the amazing variety of forms into which children's literature has morphed.  In particular, Jon notes such diverse books as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Graveyard Book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Skippyjon Jones, Horse Song: The Naadam of Mongolia, as well as the excellent, traditional style of The Magician's Elephant.

We couldn't agree more with Ambassador Scieszka except to note his own recent contributions.  Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka is a very, very funny autobiographical look at his Michigan childhood.  The Trucktown series for very young readers (illustrated by David Shannon, Loren Long, and David Gordon in an amazing collaboration) has been a huge hit. Though first published several years ago, Jon's edited work Guys Write for Guys Read: Boys' Favorite Authors Write About Being Boys (featuring contributions by Avi, Dan Gutman, Brian Jacques, Stephen King, Walter Dean Myers,  Dav Pilkey, Daniel Pinkwater, Lane Smith, Jerry Spinelli, Chris Van Allsburg, and many others) continues to sell well at our store.


Little Shop of Stories would like to thank His Honor for his years of service to the cause, which included a visit to Little Shop of Stories in 2008 and this year's Decatur Book Festival.  Hopefully he will stop wearing that sash everywhere he goes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thank You, Neil

We at Little Shop of Stories would like to express to you our most heartfelt thanks for coming to Decatur and spending time with us yesterday.

For a small, independent bookstore like ours, this was an opportunity to thank our loyal customers in a very special way and to introduce ourselves to a large number of people from all over Atlanta and the entire Southeast.  In what often feels to be a desolate landscape littered with the remains of our comrades, you have helped to keep our light shining.

Your fans are truly remarkable.  People waited as long as six hours to meet with you.  (For those of you in the front rows who were home by 7:30 last night, Neil continued to graciously sign until 1:18 a.m.)  Not only did your readers not complain about the wait, but they invariably showed good humor.  Very late in the evening -- actually, very early in the morning -- one gentleman, immediately after getting his books signed, stood slightly off to the side, opened his copy of Sandman, and for several minutes stared at what you had written with an expression of deep bliss and contentment.  I am certain many hundreds of other people shared those same emotions last night.

Sincerely,
Diane, Dave, Krista, Terra, Justin, Al, Cal, Matt, Marcy & Sydney

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Details for the Neil Gaiman Event

On Monday, December 14, 2009

People may begin lining up at 7am.  Not before.  There is no need to line up early.  If you have a ticket, you have a seat.  However, it is first come, first seated.  The weather forecast looks quite nice; let us hope it holds.

Food can be purchased at Alston Coffee from 8am-7pm, Mollie's grill from 9am-midnight, and the dining hall from 7:30am-9am ($6.50), 11:30am-2 pm ($8.50), and 5pm-7pm ($9).

Doors will open at 4:30pm, which is a bit earlier than previously announced.

For those of you who have yet to pick up your tickets, a will call table will be set up outside of Presser Hall.  This should be set up by 3:30pm at the latest, and remain open until 6pm.

Mr. Gaiman will begin speaking promptly at 6pm.  Following his presentation, Neil will sign books.  Remember, he will sign and personalize one book.  If you purchase at least one Neil Gaiman book from Little Shop, he will sign and personalize two books.  We will call people up to get their books signed by rows.  After everyone seated in Gaines Chapel has had their books signed, we will call in people from Maclean Auditorium (the overflow room).

Little Shop of Stories will be selling books at Presser Hall prior to and after the presentation.  (If the weather cooperates, we will sell books outside starting by 3pm.)  The list will include adult titles, chapter books, and picture books.  There will be a limited number of presigned books available for purchase immediately following Mr. Gaiman's presentation.

Ohhhhhh!  Two more days!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ask Neil a Question


(photo by Kimberly Butler)
Part of Neil Gaiman's presentation will be a Q & A.  Due to the difficulty of taking questions in the hall and the overflow room, we're going to take questions in advance.  Just click on 'Comments' below and write out a question for Neil.  Thanks.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Why Shop Local?

Little Shop of Stories customers shop local because:

Books-A-Million does not co-sponsor Blue Sky Concerts on the Square;
Borders did not bring Greg Mortenson, Jeff Kinney, or Rick Riordan to Decatur this year;
Amazon has never hosted a Bark If You Love Storytime and invited your dog to come; and
Two hundred people did not dress up and go to Barnes & Noble on Valentine's Day for a Fancy Storytime.
 
Little Shop has sold more copies of local author and illustrator Eric Litwin & James Dean's Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes than all those other guys combined.  And none of them have a Christmas Tree on their roof.

Little Shop of Stories and its customers had the most awesome bookstore Halloween Party in the entire United States of America and Neil Gaiman is coming in six days!!!

Local businesses breath life into our community.  We're responsive to our customers.  We live here, send our kids to school here, and participate in all kinds of different ways to help make Decatur the excellent place that it is to live and work.

And we appreciate each and every one of you.

Neil Gaiman Ticket Update V

Sad but true, we are 100% out of Neil Gaiman tickets. 

We have no more for the main room or the over flow room.

Sorry every one!!

For those of you that were lucky enough to get a ticket, we will see you on Monday.

- Sydney

Monday, December 7, 2009

Neil Gaiman Ticket Update IV

As we are getting ready to close the store for the evening so that we can go to Diane's house for holiday cheer, I did want you all to know that there are about 30 tickets remaining for the overflow room.  These will be distributed tomorrow.  If you desire one, either stop by Little Shop or give us a call.

ONE WEEK TO GO.

Neil Gaiman Ticket Update III

Only overflow tickets remain.

All of the tickets for Gaines Chapel at Presser Hall are gone.  We have begun distributing tickets for the overflow room, which is also located at Presser Hall.  We had a good crowd when we opened this morning and the phone has been ringing non-stop.

It is so amazing to see so many people so excited about an author!  About books!  About the craft of writing!

There are still a number of tickets available for the overflow room, though I'm suspecting that we'll run out by the end of the day.  The end of our day is at 6:30 p.m. today; we're having our staff holiday party tonight, so we're closing a bit early.  You can pick up overflow room tickets in person (there is no line, just walk in the shop) or over the phone (which has not stopped ringing).  People who get tickets for the overflow room will, just like people at Gaines Chapel, be able to get one book signed and personalized -- two if at least one book is purchased from Little Shop of Stories.  Save those receipts.  Books are available at Little Shop or at Presser Hall at the time of the event.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Diane's Top Five Christmas Book Countdown, Part 4

I've said it before, and I promise you I'll say it again and again.

Oh! To be a pig in Woodcock Pocket!  Especially at Christmas time!


This week's pick:
Toot and Puddle: I'll Be Home for Christmas 
by Holly Hobbie

Our porcine pals have a problem.  World traveling Toot is due home for Christmas but a bout of bad weather slows the little guy down.  Back at home, homebody Puddle busies himself-as only Puddle can do- with holiday planning, while anxiously anticipating the arrival of  his very best friend. 

Will Toot make it in time? A lucky nut and a sleigh ride from someone mysterious and good figures prominently in this story's outcome.  I won't spoil it for you, but I suspect you get the idea of just how Toot and Puddle's Christmas is saved.  Outstanding watercolors by Holly Hobbie make this book an especially tasty treat for your eyes as she so perfectly captures New England at Christmas. 

Which leads me to once again claim- Oh! To be a pig in Woodcock Pocket!


Friday, December 4, 2009

Neil Gaiman Ticket Update II

Additional tickets will be distributed on Monday, December 7th starting at 10 a.m.  We are not yet certain of the number, but it will be at least 100.  Some tickets will be given out in the shop and the remainder will be reserved for phone requests.  Regardless, the limit will continue to be one ticket per person.

For those individuals desiring to place phone reservations, please remember that you must talk to an actual person.  Leaving a voice mail is not sufficient.

When those tickets run out, we do have an alternative available.  We'll then begin passing out tickets, in the same manner, for an overflow room.  A ticket will be need for this as well.

Due to the high demand, we have reserved Maclean Auditorium at Presser Hall where people will be able to view Mr. Gaiman's presentation on a live feed.  It's the next best thing to being there.

For everyone attending, including those in Maclean Auditorium, Neil will sign and personalize one book (two if at least one is purchase from Little Shop of Stories).

Little Shop currently has a selection of Neil Gaiman hardcover books on sale.  Titles include picture and chapter books, as well as adult fiction.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Fellowship of the Tree: A Photo Essay

On Thursday night at 7 pm in front of Little Shop of Stories crowds will gather to see the lighting of the Decatur Christmas tree. Carols will be sung. Hot chocolate will be drank. Cookies and candy canes will be eaten. Good cheer will be spread. A 20 foot tree on the roof of a building is a magical thing to see. People stopped us while we were decorating the tree in front of the shop yesterday to ask us how we were going to get it onto our roof. We told them fairy dust. But here's the real story of how the Decatur Christmas tree made it to the square. In case you're into blood and sweat and tears and all that messy behind the scenes stuff....



Welcome to the Noel Christmas Tree Farm! Address: Behind the Cracker Barrel in Cartersville, Georgia. Seriously. That's the address. After discovering that intown trees cost a small fortune, my husband Thad and Marcy (pictured) and I drove an hour away to cut down our own tree.


Here we are, driving into the magical, mysterious, affordable forrest.



I thought I'd found the perfect tree. But Moses (a worker at the farm) told me it wouldn't work because the trunk had split. So we kept looking.


Thad measured every tree for us. Some were up to forty feet tall. We really wanted to bring one of those home, but thoughts of it crashing off the roof brought me back to a 20-foot reality.


Little Marcy on the Prairie


Thad, winning husband of the year, cutting down our tree for us. We thought they'd have a chain saw instead of just a regular saw. We were wrong. Thanks again, Thad!


This is the tree that Thad cut down....



This is the tree that I cut down. Basically the same thing, right?


Now we just have to drive it to Atlanta...



And leave it at my house for a few days until we can get it to the shop to decorate it!



Outside of Little Shop of Stories me, Marcy, and Mark contemplating the logistics behind getting the tree upright. Cal and Mark had to secure it with ropes from the roof so we could put all the lights and ornaments on it.



Mark is ready to light the tree. And if this whole managing a bookstore thing doesn't work out for me, I'm going to become a lumberjack. Check out my awesome plaid.


Cal rock climbs so the twenty foot ladder didn't bother him all that much...




I am so glad this tree isn't any higher.


This is when we realize why people can charge thousands of dollars to professionally decorate your Christmas tree.


Terra taught us about girl plugs and boy plugs while we made sure all the lights were connected.



Jenny's new earrings



Sorry, no fairy dust. But the guys from King Tree Experts were magical to me. They came and installed our tree (and our 700 lb, 10 foot by 10 foot tree stand) on the roof for free.



Here they are! You guys are the best!


Want to see the finished product? Join us tomorrow night (Thursday) at 7pm in front of Little Shop of Stories. You can forget all the behind the scenes stuff and just enjoy the results of all this work. Thanks a million to everyone who helped make this possible. And a Merry Christmas to all!


--Krista

The Christmas Tree Lighting!

There is a great big Christmas Tree on our roof!

Tomorrow night you should be here!
Tomorrow night there will be Hot Chocolate!
Tomorrow night there will be Song!
Tomorrow night the Tree will be Lit!

This incredibly wonderful Tree is brought to you by the following: Apolinsky & Associates, LLC, Cakes & Ale, Collage, Cook's Warehouse, Decatur First Bank, King's Tree Experts, Little Shop of Stories, Mingei World Arts, Personal Care, The Seen Gallery, Squash Blossom, Starbucks, and Zucca.  And, the Glenwood Chorus!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Neil Gaiman Ticket Update

This week's allotment of tickets for the Neil Gaiman event on December 14th are gone!

There was a line of about 99 people when we opened up Monday morning.  Despite a light rain that lasted nearly all day, Gaiman fans kept coming in steadily.  Tickets were gone not long after 7 p.m.

We had set aside 100 tickets to be given out starting Monday, December 7th to those who come into the store or reserve tickets over the phone.

We're going to have to rethink this a bit.  We went through the first 100 tickets yesterday in about 10 minutes.  This would give people calling in next Monday almost zero chance.  Which doesn't seem fair.

We'll post an update later in the week.

As fast as the tickets went, our supply of Neil Gaiman books went faster.  We're told that we'll have more either late Wednesday or early Thursday.

So here's an idea!

Come to Little Shop of Thursday evening for the lighting of the Decatur Tree right in front of your favorite book store.  It should be a beautiful, but cool, evening.  Drink some hot chocolate.  Eat some goodies.  Sing some carols.  Get some Neil Gaiman books!