The new store, which is in a shopping center in McLean, Virginia, has been open for a week now. I spent today finishing unpacking a 27-box shipment from Harper, and 7 more boxes from Simon & Schuster. All the books from major publishers are now there, on the shelves where they'll be living, and mostly in order.
I feel like I'm bringing old friends to a new neighborhood. It's fun to see which of my new co-workers reacts to which book. One person sat on the floor reading the most recent Diary of a Wimpy Kid today. Another has been figuring out the mysteries of putting early readers in order. Frog & Toad, The Fire Cat, a ton of Fancy Nancy readers, lots of Henry and Mudge, Small Pig -- they're all arranged in spinner racks which finally arrived yesterday.
It all feels clean and new. Which is nice (no chaos!), but it doesn't have its own personality yet. We still haven't hired the person who will be responsible for the new book section -- and that person is bound to put more personality into it. And even though I've been talking with customers, I don't have a sense of who they are yet. Not that everyone who walks into a store is the same person, but each store has a clientele that leans a little more toward different types of books.
One boy -- maybe 8 years old -- came in today asking where Jack and Annie were. I had to translate for a co-worker: they're the stars of the Magic Tree House series (yes, we carry all 44 of 'em, sigh). A mom and her four year-old spent some time quietly on the floor back in the picture book section, declining any assistance, and after half an hour emerged with an armload of books. That happens at the main store a lot, but it was fun to see someone stocking up just as we were opening. The Guinness Book of World Records and Star Wars book still exert a magnetic pull for anyone over ten years old.
But my favorite was a girl who came in yesterday. She was maybe eight years old, totally energetic. She flitted around the book section, giving equal attention to the organized books on the shelves and piles on the floor. What I really loved was that she'd walk up to a pile and pick up a book or two, look at them, get distracted by another one, go pick up that one. It was such a tactile exploration: touch, pick up, look, put down, touch another, pick it up, etc. That's how I feel a lot of the time: wanting to run my fingers through the books.