Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Fond Farewell to a One-time Customer

It was a slow Saturday afternoon, back in the late 1980's or early 1990s. Only one customer in the store. A woman, browsing the biography section. Susan, who was working the counter with me, put her hand over her mouth and whispered, “I think that's Lauren Bacall!”

“Really?” I answered skeptically. But glancing at the profile of the woman's face, I had to admit that she
could indeed be Lauren Bacall. But how were we going to know for sure? I mean, you just don't walk up to someone and ask them if they are Lauren Bacall. And bookstore policy has always been that we leave people alone so they can browse without being bothered.

Luckily, Ms Bacall helped us out. She turned toward Susan and me and asked a question. And as soon as we heard that deep, smoky voice, there was no question. This was Lauren Bacall, browsing in The Regulator.

As I recall, we had the book she was looking for, and she bought it. Susan and I stayed cool, no screaming, no asking for an autograph. But of course we were excited. So much so that I have no memory of what the book was that Lauren Bacall bought. But I think she had a pleasant, quiet time, browsing in our bookstore that day.

Thanks for the memories, Ms Bacall.
--Tom Campbell

Monday, July 14, 2014

"Shelving to Save a Book's Life"

"Turning a book face out is an act of tremendous power, or so it feels when you are working at an independent bookstore at a moment that has major chains shrinking and Amazon wreaking havoc with publishing's already fragile ecosystem.... You can also show a little love to an obscure mid-list paperback you just discovered suffocating between two behemoth hardcovers--simply because it feels like the right thing to do.... You can't save every life. You can't save every book. But you can at least throw lifelines now and then. Turning a book face out is the micro version of Stephen Colbert bestowing likely bestsellerdom on a debut novel caught in the Hachette/Amazon crossfire."
--Susan Coll of Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C., in an Atlantic magazine piece headlined "Shelving to Save a Book's Life.

Friday, April 11, 2014

From Maine in 1896: The Quote of the Week

My companions and I had been so intent upon the subject of the conversation that we had not heard any one open the gate, but at this moment, above the noise of the rain, we heard a loud knocking. We were all startled as we sat by the fire, and Mrs. Todd rose hastily and went to answer the call, leaving her rocking-chair in violent motion. Mrs. Fosdick and I heard an anxious voice at the door speaking of a sick child, and Mrs. Todd's kind, motherly voice inviting the messenger in: then we waited in silence. There was a sound of heavy dropping of rain from the eaves, and the distant roar and undertone of the sea. My thoughts flew back to the lonely woman on her outer island; what separation from humankind she must have felt, what terror and sadness, even in a summer storm like this!

"You send right after the doctor if she ain't better in half an hour," said Mrs. Todd to her worried customer as they parted; and I felt a warm sense of comfort in the evident resources of even so small a neighborhood, but for the poor hermit Joanna there was no neighbor on a winter night.

--from The Country of the Pointed Firs, by Sarah Orne Jewett. First published in 1896, the book's sequence of stories tell of the lives of a group of resourceful women living in relative isolation in small villages along the Maine coast. Reading it today can provide a wonderful "vacation" from our too-connected present world. The Regulator carries the book in a handsome illustrated paperback, published by New England publisher David Godine.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"Closed on Account of the Good Weather?"

The sign I thought about putting on our front door today:

Closed on Account of Good Weather

if you have a problem with this, take a hike!

Friday, March 28, 2014

"Going to the local park is like walking into Cheers" The Quote of the Week

"I think of birds as a circle of friends and acquaintances. Going to the local park is like walking into Cheers. Here's the warbler, back again. 'How was Mexico?'"

--David Sibley, talking at The Regulator last evening.

Friday, March 21, 2014

"We went there for everything we needed." The Quote of the Week

"We went there for everything we needed. We went there when thirsty, of course, and when hungry, and when dead tired. We went there when happy, to celebrate, and when sad, to sulk. We went there after weddings and funerals, for something to settle our nerves, and always for a shot of courage just before. We went there when we didn't know what we needed, hoping someone might tell us. We went there when looking for love, or sex, or trouble, or for someone who had gone missing, because sooner or later everyone turned up there. Most of all we went there when we needed to be found."

--the opening paragraph of J. R. Moehringer's marvelous 2006 memoir, The Tender Bar.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Shop Local! We couldn't have said it better ourselves..

Column: Dynamic local business scene a Durham hallmark

By Bob Ashely, Herald-Sun, 16 March 2014

The other day, waiting to pick up a lunch order at a quintessentially Durham establishment – a taqueria adorned with a large cow atop its roof, legacy of its days as dairy bar – it occurred to me how during my time in Durham the lure of buying local has grown year by year.
In part that’s because Durham in the early part of the 21stcentury has perhaps the most vibrant, varied and engaged local business operations of any place I can recall in my adult life.
And in part it is because I’ve been educated over time by many friends in the local business community about the unique importance they hold in the community’s social and economic fabric.
That is not to dismiss the importance of major national retailers, restaurants and service providers. I happily benefit from the rich variety and availability of merchandise and culinary options brought to us by our landscape of national retailers. A  newspaper colleague and I were talking the other day about the fact there is scarcely a major national retailer not represented in this market – something that would not have been true a couple of decades ago.
But there is something special about the contribution of local businesses, and making extra effort to sustain them is worthwhile. And it’s important to realize the benefits that accrue.
If you need some examples, look no further than another wonderful Durham fixture – the website of Sustain-a-Bull. The organization, inspired by Ninth Street merchants and curated by Amy Campbell, daughter of Regulator Bookshop co-owner Tom Campbell, exists to encourage people to “Shop independent Durham.” 
And the website offers several arguments for “Why Local Matters:”
-- “In a 2012 national poll, respondents said that having locally owned businesses nearby is the #1 factor in creating an ideal community.
-- “A 2011 study found that ‘counties with a vibrant small-business sector have lower rates of mortality and a lower prevalence of obesity and diabetes’ than counties without one.
-- “Studies of both agricultural and manufacturing communities found that places with a diversity of small-scale enterprises had higher levels of civic participation and better social outcomes than those dominated by a few outside corporations.
-- “Each dollar spent at a local, independent merchant generates up to four times as much wealth in the local economy as a dollar spent at a chain-owned business, due to the local multiplier effect.
“ --Farmers who sell items locally tend to be smaller scale and can more feasibly adopt environmentally beneficial practices such as growing diverse crops, planting cover crops, leaving habitat buffers for native biodiversity, and integrating crop and livestock production.”
That last bullet point underscores the contributions of our increasingly popular and extensive farmers’ markets – another example of Durham’s embrace of buying local.
More than 100 local businesses are members of Sustain-A-Bull (many advertise in this newspaper, for which I and my colleagues are especially grateful). They no doubt are encouraged by statistics such as this, again from the website:
“Independent businesses in communities with an active ‘buy local first’ initiative, such as Sustain-a-Bull, reported almost 3 times more revenue growth in 2012 compared with those in areas without such an initiative in a recent survey from the Institute for Local Self Reliance.”
Farmers’ markets, ethnic restaurants, coffee shops with eclectic and funky d├ęcor, hardware stores without blister packs where clerks will call around to find an item they don’t have in stock, boutiques with unique merchandise, fair-trade-focused import shops – Durham is alive with lively local businesses.
That is yet another affirmation “great things are happening in Durham.”
(Bob Ashley is the editor of the Durham Herald-Sun)