Tuesday, April 16, 2013
April 16, 2013: Bookshop Journal
Lauren Goans was nice enough to include me on a safari to Costco. Mo bought a Costco Memberhip for Glenwood Coffee & Books soon after joining us. She buys huge boxes of individually packaged snacks that we sell for 75-cents to $1.25 in the coffeeshop and drinks like "Izzie's" and "Coca-Cola" for a dollar or more. These items generally cost less than half what we charge. Lauren told me they charge almost two dollars for a banana at Green Bean; costs less than a quarter. What we used to do before Mo was buy from Angie, who lives a block away and has her gluten-free bakery here on Grove & McCormick, ZenKat she calls her business. Very tasty, very local, very healthy. But Angie charges $1.75 per package, and you have to sell it for $ 2.50. Mo got rid of the ZenKat business and went for Costco. Ultimately, I think, Mo got disgusted with maneauvers like that she felt forced into: profits, money-making.
Unlike me, Mo can't live on nothing. As long as I could, I gave her $700 a month, little enough. But, then, there just wasn't any more money. Ironically, the well dried up because she closed down the bookshop for 5 months while trying to form the A-Z bookshelves into categories. Book sales dried up. On the one hand, almost all our books were unavailable, in cartons, in piles on the floor in the back room . . . no customers allowed. On the other hand, while Mo and her assistant, Juan, played with these cartons of books, she kept the door locked. Customers came to the store, as they had, intermittenly, for five years, and like as not, found the store closed.
Where was I while this devastation took place? I had turned management of everything over to Mo, who, after all, had to run it when I died or got too old to work anymore. She had to learn sometime, although Christmas retail season maybe wasn't the best time! Our 2011 sales had been $2,500/mo during November and December. Under Mo's tutelidge this went down to $500 per month. So she couldn't get her $700/mo any more. Where was it supposed to come from? At 77 years of age, my income, social security, didn't even cover the rent, which I pay every month ($750).
Mo insisted she knew retailing. So I didn't butt in. But, finally, in March, with books still in cartons for the fifth month, I asked her permission to begin doing the shelving. She was very grateful for the help; she disappeared; I returned as manager. The shop looks terrific now, six thousand titles all in order and available. Of course, it will take the rest of the year to build back the business.
I'd like to return to Angie and Zen Kat and her delicious gluten-free brownies.
Profit is half what you can make from Costco, but, really . . . Costco!!! As my mother used to say, "Feh! Tref!" I embrace the "Slow Food" ideal. And I'm sure, in her heart, Mo did, too. Only she felt driven to make money, I think. It's 10 days since Mo stormed out of here and Dave threw her keys in my face. I've gone through the six stages of grief Kubler-Ross talks about when there's a death in the family. Anger and denial and depression . . .
Mutual friends and Peace Movement comrades are trying to get Mo and me to a Mediation Table, which I've been in favor of since Day One. I don't know how Mo feels about any Reconciliation. In the two long talks we had when she told me she was leaving (with three days notice after a year and a half partnership), we were peaceful with one another. But there was a flare-up the next night, Mo stormed out, "Dave And The Keys," and she left me in the lurch, she left hurt, in tears, furious.
Yes, I've felt a lot of resentment and depression in the past ten days. But that's foolish. The truth is I love Mo, I admire her tremendously. I'm sure hardly anyone knows how intelligent she is. She's a whiz. And, of course, she's known for her bravery. I assume everyone knows she's an extremely talented artist. She's made this place beautiful, and we get many a compliment when someone finally comes in.
I've been humming the old hymn, "Love will guide us/Peace inside us" for the past week. Trying to find a peaceful center, return to my loving heart, caring for Mo like I always have. I realize, yes, there might have been a little too much of This, not enough of That in her year and a half here. But 99% of it was magnificent. I'm sorry she thinks, if she really does, that she failed. That we failed. That Glenwood Coffee & Books was a failure. I'll bet you no one else, except maybe Dave Reed, feels that way. I definitely don't.
From any point of view of my desires when I first opened this community book shop, all my goals have been reached, I am 100% satisfied. Sure I wish people would support their local bookshop. But do I support my local Gluten-free Bakery, owned by Angie, who lives a block away? No one is perfect. Ours is a Selfish Individualistic Culture.
Mo and I did a great job. Our intention was to create a public space, a community center. We certainly did that. I was willing and able to live without taking any money out of the business, without relying on it for a cent. Partly because it provided free rent or at least a futon on which to sleep at night. (I miss a shower, a stove, hot water, Heat, air-conditioning.) I get Food Stamps, and Mo is eligible for Food Stamps, too, but for some reason she refused to apply for them. I get $125, which is all I need every month.
Mo's needs are more complex (student loans, rent, medical bills). But Glenwood was unable to meet her needs. So she left. I don't believe she's correct in saying, "I failed, because you were living here and people are uncomfortable coming into a place where an old man lives." I doubt if one person in a hundred know I live here. For four years, the landlord didn't know I lived here. Even some of my best friends didn't know where I lived. And those who knew I lived here shopped here. So I think she's just making excuses, justification for what she perceives as some kind of "failure." Yes, she failed in the Money Department. But this place wasn't set up to make money from the get-go. That wasn't the goal. We had a very different mission, as Mo knew fully. For the only meeting we ever had, when she began work here, we wrote down our common goals and desires and "making money" wasn't one of them. Of course, at the beginning, she got $700/mo out of my pocket, but then my pocket dried up. The bookshop didn't generate any cash any more. And she couldn't get enough out of the coffee/snack sales and amplified music in The Back Room. A little but not as much as she wanted.