Saturday, August 27, 2011

In Defense of Cranky Bookstore Owners

Came across this article recently that had been reposted in a trade blog. It's about a fellow named Jim Toole, who runs a store called Capitol Hill Books in our nation's capitol. Jim is a cranky guy. Here is a short example of his retail philosophy:

"And then, there are the rules of the store. First, you can only get in when it is open. Second, no cell phones. This is a book store and not a phone booth. Third, there are words and phrases that you can’t use in my store: like, oh my God, neat, sweet, have a good one, that’s a good question, totally, whatever, perfect, Kindle or Amazon. These words give me brain damage. I’m serious. When people use them in here, I tell them to get a thesaurus and stop being so mentally lame."

Remember old Bruno at Persian Aub Zam Zam? People reveled in his crankiness (until they fell victim to it themselves, in some cases), though you've got to admit it's not bad being able to actually sit at one of the tables if the bar is full. I used to visit a bookstore down in Pasadena called something like The Oriental Book Company. The guy kept most of his lights turned off, and if you wanted to see a particular section, he would huff in frustration that he had to go through the trouble of turning the lights on. That guy was a crank. You might not like shopping at his store, but there was no doubt that it was his store. In this world of Bed Bath & Beyond blandness, a retail approach like that can be....refreshing.

A note of caution: this is a defense of cranky owners, not staffers. I find cranky staffers a lot less romanticizable. In fact, I almost couldn't watch the movie High Fidelity after Jack Black abused that customer for wanting, what was it, Paul Simon? My retail owner's hackles were raised.

At Green Apple, we place a high value on hiring people who are nice, people who are passionate about books and passionate about sharing them with our customers. We're not going to start writing down arbitrary "store rules." But Green Apple does have a store personality- a bit disheveled, little rough around the edges. When you walk in here, you know you're not in Barnes & Noble. But people seem to like us, check out our Yelp reviews.

1 comment:

Spiros said...

*sound made by exasperated teenagers around their clueless parents (any week now, Kevin)* It wasn't Paul Simon, it was Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called To Say I Love You".
And that pretty much was the point of Barry, in the book and the movie: Rob delegates the crankiness to him, because he's too passive to be his own crank.