Givens Books/Little Dickens
My father was never very good at working for other people. That's not to say he didn't have an incredible work ethic, because he did. He was simply rather . . . independent minded, to put it gently. While teaching high school in Tucson, Arizona, he and my mother opened a gift shop. Twice. Neither was a huge success.
Then we moved to Lynchburg, Virginia, where he taught high school again, opened a bookstore (Boonshire Books) with my mother, and then quit teaching after butting heads too many times with the administration. The story (though false) goes: He walked in to quit and the principal told him teachers were a dime a dozen, so my father gave him a dime and told him to go find them then. The real story is that he wanted to quit but they said they wouldn't let him out of his contract, so he stopped showing up for work until they fired him.
An independent-minded couple opening an independent bookstore... It made a lot of sense nearly 35 years ago. And from the beginning it was a labor of love. Yet as with all things we give birth to, it was difficult and involved a lot of sacrifice and a lot of sweat and a lot more hard work than anyone had imagined.
After several years in one location, my parents decided to expand, and they built a new building in a more central location. Because they couldn't afford a new home and a new store, they combined the two. We lived in the lower level, and the business occupied the main level. I literally grew up in a bookstore, and I'm sure there's no better place.
My father retired more than 10 years ago, and my mother kept working. She loved being there too much and still does. My brother, Danny, bought the business from them and combined it under one new, 16,000-square-feet roof with his toy and educational supply store. He rents space to a coffee and sandwich shop as well, making the store an ideal place to spend the day. It has a used book department that is run by an appropriately curmudgeonly man. No used book department is complete without one of those.
We're well aware in our family that without its loyal customers, the store would not have stayed in business for as long as it has. New customers come in every day, and they run the gamut--from the old ladies who knew us when we were children to the children we grew up with, now parents themselves, to a new generation of kids "growing up" in a bookstore.
This holiday season, while you're finishing up that shopping list (or just starting it), be sure you're wrapping at least a couple books to put under someone's tree. As a child raised on words as much as on food and water, I will be forever grateful for every author who has fed my mind over the years.
Looking for ideas for the young reader in your life? Try one of these Givens Books bestsellers (and a couple of my personal favorites):
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
Bob Books (beginning readers) by Bobby Lynn Maslen
Jan Brett's Christmas Treasury by Jan Brett
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
"Stand Back," said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze" by Patricia Thomas