Giving Thanks for all the Giving

  • Nicole Sullivan 11/26/2020
Flowers from Fern and Bloom: a brand new flower shop on Tennyson Street. Yet another thing to be thankful for.

Can you stand another post about all of the reasons to feel grateful in such a horrid year? This isn’t the post I intended to write as I fell asleep last night, worrying about the future: the state of small businesses everywhere – most of which will not make it very far into 2021. I was fretting about the book industry facing the impacts of yet another potential monopoly with the news of the pending purchase of Simon & Schuster by Penguin Random House, the growing strength of Amazon and the fact that billionaires like Jeff Bezos only got richer in 2020. I felt sick about the more than 70 million people in the U.S. who wanted a racist to continue to run our country for another four years, many of whom refuse to keep their friends, family, and neighbors alive by wearing a simple mask across their face. It’s all a lot.

I don’t need to sum it up for you. It’s our shared experience. But we’re all obviously internalizing this differently, evidenced by the millions of people who actually boarded airplanes this week during a strengthening pandemic. Perspective is a funny thing. The will to normalize the abnormal is nearly as strong as our will to live, ironically. It is why maybe, after what has become my daily mid-morning nap I woke today feeling refreshed with a new perspective. Because I can’t seem to keep my feet warm (one of the weirder Covid symptoms I’ve experienced) I crawl into bed, piling as many blankets as I can on my feet and then fall asleep while my husband makes breakfast for the kids. I return the favor later in the day since neither of us seem to be able to make it through a day without the extra rest this recovery requires. For this alone I am grateful. I woke for the second time today to the sounds of the kids laughing, music playing, my husband signing along – the sounds of a house healing. God, am I grateful for that. I know so many families have not fared nearly as well.

I came downstairs and, for the 3rd day in a row, teared up at the bouquet of flowers on my dining room table that BookBar staff brought by as a get well gift. The card thanked us for taking care of them, their needs, and their health during this time of closure and sickness and uncertainty. I thought about how our recovery would never have been possible without each and every one of them stepping way up, taking over, learning new skills, coming together, and running the whole damn business while we couldn’t. Everyone should be so lucky to have a team of smart, caring people on their side. As each staff member got and awaited test results, they shared their negative statuses on our Slack channel and everyone piled on with emojis of joy. Each negative result meant coming back to work and, even though they knew they would receive their pay regardless, they were all celebrating their return because they just love what they do. They believe in what they do – mostly because you won’t let them forget it. We received so many notes of love and encouragement from our community who values the passion and knowledge we put into putting the right books in the right hands. And what a world of difference that makes right now in our post-truth, dystopian reality. Books center us. Books make us forget. And books make us remember.

Forgive me for feeling grateful and optimistic today. It’s hard not to when I analyze our sales these past few months and realize that (while bar sales are down and I don’t mind that, really) our book sales remain as strong as ever. People are getting the message that shopping local and shopping small, family-owned businesses run by staff who can’t wait to get back to work in a pandemic means everything. Every. Thing. It blows my mind that in a year like this one, our relatively new non-profit organization, BookGive, has found a way to donate over 25,000 books since March and donate Little Free Libraries to four Denver ‘book deserts’ so that we can continue to donate even more. It’s just as hard to believe that we launched a new press this year and will be releasing our first book in December, Bite-Size. This anthology of plays was written and performed by more than a dozen playwrights as a partnership between BookBar and Denver Center for the Performing Arts Off-Center program back in 2018. Let that sink in for a moment: more than 2 dozen local artists came together in a year like this one to sign off on a project from 2018 in which proceeds go to DCPA. How do you find so much selflessness from so many in a time of such sorrow? I can only chalk it up the power of the written word and the passion of those who write them.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring so while I am full of gratitude, I want to take a moment to acknowledge all who make our lives so much richer:

Jessica: our bar manager who stepped in for BookBike Mike and did local book deliveries and learned a whole lot more about the book side of book and bar selling than she maybe ever set out to. I’m beginning to wonder if there is a situation in this world that she can’t handle with a sense of mastery.

Ally & Conner: who got a crash course in changing up our sales systems yet again. They not only figured it out with a swiftness that my foggy brain can only admire but they took it all on with enthusiasm. I’m in awe.

Rachel, Maple, Kerin, and Maria: They might not think of themselves in this way but the word that comes to mind is ‘sunny.’ Every time I called the store and spoke to them their optimism, creativity, and perseverance shined right through. They seem to come up with a solution to every problem and road block we encounter.

Marilyn: Goodness. If you know Marilyn, you know the light she brings to every situation. She is one of the hardest workers I know. She’s been hustling for years but increasingly so these last few months to bring authors to schools and sales to BookBar. And she does it all with an easy breeziness unique only to her. We couldn’t do this without her. Truly. Carly is a light following in her footsteps. I can’t imagine this girl ever has a bad day. If she does, it never shows.

Sarah: has been with us nearly as long as Marilyn. She’s stuck with us through the ups and downs, the long nights and shut-downs. Her expertise from years of bookselling and book reading are invaluable as is her wry sense of humor.

Kevin: He’s the one working tirelessly in what used to be our Reading Room but is now our receiving room (and a really pretty one). I just love watching him work, listening to podcasts and stifling giggles as he untangles our mess of publisher and wholesale orders that have been started, halted, started again during this weird year. Rayne: thank you for coming on board to help him and us out! We’re so looking forward to getting to know you better and work with you in the months to come.

Becky: If we were a boat, she is the rudder. And I mean that in the most endearing way. She is a huge wealth of book and industry knowledge and a jack of all trades. I’ve not met many as well-read as she is and she consistently brings her passions to fruition. Our CookBook Book club is all Becky. Her idea, her execution, and her dedication. Meanwhile, her organization and knack for detail keeps our business humming along.

Bess & Mara: I mean – they are an event coordinating & marketing dream team. With professionalism, attention to detail, and sooo much creativity they’ve needed little direction from me to pull off the enormous task of hosting events virtually. Have you seen our events line-up?? Remarkable.

Melissa: Sometimes your whole life can change by just throwing out a mention of a project to the right person at the right time. Melissa could move mountains. In fact, I’m pretty sure she does. She is the powerhouse behind BookGive and adds new meaning to what we all do.

Heather: Dove right in to BookBar Press. I just wanted to publish a few books. She created a new business. This will be successful because she will not settle for anything less. And she has done it all. When we release our first books soon it is all because of her.

And to everyone who came before – we are where we are and what we are because of all of you. Everyone who has walked through our doors and taken on a title (or two) has left their mark in some way or other (good and um, challenging 😉 and we are grateful. No one more than me. Many scattered across the U.S. and beyond to start their own businesses (bookstores and bars!), start families, finish degrees, and take their talents to other industries.

I am thankful for readers and everyone who works so hard to create them.

Except for Jeff Bezos. He can fuck right off.