Posted by: Kristi Tuck Austin | December 1, 2010

Book People bookstore celebrates 30 years

Happy 30th birthday, Book People

Get out your birthday hats, because today is Book People’s 30th birthday. Yesterday, I stopped by Book People to talk with owner Ruth Erb and Book People’s wonderful staff about serving the community for three decades and their upcoming celebration. There was laughter and a few misty eyes as booksellers shared stories of 30 years of finding the perfect book for a customer.

A few years ago, an out-of-print book search was a needed reminder of a husband’s love.“We call people who asked us to let them know if we ever came across such-and-such,” Ruth said, “and so we called this one lady. She called back and said, ‘Oh no, that was for my husband and he passed away…but could you tell me what the book was?’ It was a cook book, Love Is Butter On the Bread, or something like that, and she said, ‘Oh my goodness.’  It hit her at the time her daughter had just gone to college, she was alone at home, had never lived by herself since she was a young person, and she was feeling lonesome, and here it comes — out of the blue — like her husband saying ‘hello,’ and she ended up ordering the book.  He used to cook for her…and this was something he had ordered for his cooking.  Doesn’t it make you want to cry?” Ruth looked around at our smiling faces and my teary eyes.  “It does.  It really does.”

One customer requested a book search for his mother and found more than he expected.  Ruth said, “We found a beat up copy, and he came in to look at it.  He held it up, and it was all marked up, and I said, ‘I know it is in bad shape; we’ll find you another copy.’ He said, ‘You’d better not. I am going to give this to my mother for Christmas, and her name is in it.’  His mother’s name was in it…. It had been at their beach house [and someone made off with it]. He called us Christmas afternoon and said, ‘You should have been there when my mother opened that package.’”

And another customer got more than she hoped when she requested Book People find a novel her father cherished so she could give it to her adult children.  She wanted the same edition her father owned, and Book People found one from New York.  “She was standing there and she said, ‘Gosh, it looks just like…’” Ruth mimed opening a book.  “’It looks just like…it is!’ It was her father’s book, his name was in it, and it had come in from New York.”

Bookseller Mary Lou Sheridan summed up Book People’s mission, “It is about the people who walk through the door.” It always has been for Ruth, who named the store for the community of readers. Ruth expressed her “gratefulness for having been able to follow a passion for that long.” Her appreciation overflows for the customers who stuck with them through the store’s darker days and the area’s recessions. “I really do mean stuck with us,” Ruth said, “because there are easier ways to get books than to walk in, which would leave us without the pleasure of meeting [the customers] and getting to know them.”

And I recommend getting to know the booksellers. Their verve and irreverent humor are infectious. When I asked Mary Lou how she came to work at Book People, she said, “I love the store.” Ruth, shaking her head, interjected, “I dragged her in by her hair.” Ruth wasn’t dragging too hard because faithful customer Mary Lou became volunteer and then bookseller.  Jenny came to Book People when another bookseller recommended her as an addition to the team. Sign up for the newsletter, and you’ll get updates from Andrew, the communications head. And there is Rick, who has been with Book People since its first days. “He walked in when we were at Willow Lawn,” Ruth remembered. “I needed somebody, and he was getting some children’s books, and I said, ‘By any chance, do you need a job?’ It was the day he had decided to retire.” I did not meet the other volunteers and staff, but stop by and Ruth will be happy to introduce you.

A party for Book People

You are invited to celebrate Book People’s birthday this Saturday, December 4, from 10am to 4pm. Join local authors to enjoy children’s story time, face painting, and, of course, birthday cake.

Celebration schedule

10-12 Enjoy a light brunch with authors

10-11 Dr. Woody Holton, author of Abigail Adams

10-12 Jennifer Stanley, author of Black Beans and Vice and A Killer Plot (as Ellery Adams)

10:30-11:30 Diann Ducharme, author of The Outer Banks House

10:30-12:30 Christaphora Robeers, author and artist of The Quiet Voice of the Outer Banks, A Visual Journal

11-12 Michele Young-Stone, author of The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors(tentative time)

12:30 Cake cutting! Birthday cake and light refreshments will be served throughout the afternoon.

12:30-1:30 Children’s story time with Kate Hall, author of Richmond Rocks!

1:30-3:30 Med Medina, author of Milagros: Girl From Away

1:30-3:30 Irene Ziegler, author of Ashes to Water

2:30-3:30 Emily Salmon and John Salmon, authors of Remembering Richmond

3:30 Raffle drawing for Meg Medina’s school visit

3-4 Stacy Hawkins Adams, author of Who Speaks to Your Heart

And there are gifts for you: Meg Medina is generously raffling a one-hour school visit, and expect more details soon of a prize from Michele Young-Stone.

And the celebration continues all month. During December, bring a recent receipt from a neighborhood business for 10% off a book of your choice. For every $10 you spend in Book People, you’ll be entered to win a Book People gift certificate. The drawing will be held Friday, December 31, 2010.

For more information, call 804-288-4346.

I hope to see you all Saturday!

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