The Shops Around The Corner

IF THIS ISSUE’S LETTER appears to be a shameless plug, that isn’t its intent at all. It is about relationships.

From the moment we first sense parental care and signs of the world around us, our lives are defined by relationships—expanding relationships with people, places, beliefs, nature, the planet and the times we live in. There are business relationships, too, but they are seldom granted the deep meaning we attach to personal and spiritual relationships. Instead, they are often regarded as drab connections centered on the cold reality of goods, services—and money. Yet business and personal relationships have the same requirement: they must be good for both parties to be good at all. And when a relationship is good, it’s worth nurturing and cherishing.

Not long ago, old friends and I met in New York City where we visited the National Museum of the American Indian. In one of the exhibits we noticed several 1895 photos credited to one A.C. Vroman. That’s not a name I meet every day but it struck a chord with me because of the magazine’s relationship with a local bookstore that has supported American Bungalow since Issue Number One.

Vroman’s Bookstore is big as independents go, but it is a consistently friendly, intelligent bookstore that delivers a challenge or a surprise along every inch of each aisle. In
New York that day, the surprise was my introduction to the company’s founder, Adam Clark Vroman of Pasadena—an Arts and Crafts era photographer and enterprising
philanthropist, a contemporary of Edward S. Curtis and a friend of Charles Lummis.

It occurred to me then that I’ve watched in horror as many precious little bookstores were consumed by efficient big ones, who in turn have been swallowed by even more efficient virtual bookstores—yet Vroman’s is still swimming along cheerfully after 118 years.

That in turn reminded me, appreciatively, that we also have a direct relationship with scores of other small, independent bookstores across North America: specialty stores, museum stores, advertisers’ retail shops—each one with a personality of its own. For readers these shops are soft, warm, intelligent sanctuaries in a hard-sell landscape. For American Bungalow, they are a pleasure to deal with—a familiar voice on the phone and a mutually satisfactory, almost “handshake” business relationship, one based on understanding as opposed to one defined by middleman distributors or faceless boardroom executives. These shops take us up on our offer to buy back pristine unsold copies, a gesture of pure good will on their part, recycling whole copies instead of churning them into profitable pulp at our expense, as distributors do.

It isn’t just publishers who appreciate these businesses. Go to Yelp and read the reviews—quality bookstores are adored by readers. Not everyone has the reader gene, but since you’re doing what you’re doing now, I needn’t explain the fascination. Maybe there are enough of us to ensure the future of every “Shop Around the Corner.”

Inglenooks were not invented for squinting at glow-in-the-dark words, but for readers who cherish the authentic. And few things in life are more authentic than the cozy intimacy you experience when you fall in love with a good bookstore.

Looking forward to hearing from you,



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