Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Linda Martin: Symbiosis: Bookstore and Writers

I was in the Homer Bookstore recently, buying a copy of Show and Tell by Phillip Lopate. I added to my purchase a box of notecards featuring rosemary, basil and dill that I found on a shelf honoring the Homer Farmer’s Market. Also on that shelf: a tempting children’s book called The Very Big Carrot, a cookbook called Every Which Way With Rhubarb, and There’s a Moose in My Garden by Homer writer and master gardener Brenda Adams.

Former Alaska State Writer Laureate, Nancy Lord, came through the bookstore door while I was making my purchase. Nancy’s books are shelved in the Local Author’s section, but most were currently in a feature display of books by Kachemak Bay Writers Conference speakers. Nancy had come to cash in her “purple card”, a frequent buyer card from the bookstore. Make twelve transactions and your reward is credit in the average amount spent. (My new card has only five transactions since April 18. My average is $41 so far!) Nancy picked a number of books from the conference shelf, including poetry by Afaa Michael Weaver and Simmons Buntin, and a novel by Adrianne Harun.

Writers and bookstores need each other, obviously. An independent bookstore like this one is a real treasure, unfettered by corporate dictums but still in touch with the wide literary world. Owners Sue Post, Lee Post and Jenny Stroyeck keep their store globally connected and community-minded. Their artistic employee, Jennifer Norton, rotates book displays so that customers often find what they didn’t know they wanted. 

One of my favorite shelves in the store is called “Guaranteed Good.” I can count on this selection to introduce me to new fiction, recommended by Sue and Jenny. Lee’s recommendations have led me to books my husband enjoys, most recently The Martian, by Andy Weir. Sue (sister to Lee, both children of previous owner Joy Post) told me the idea for “Guaranteed Good” came from Homer poet Erin Hollowell, a former bookstore employee, who had seen it used by a bookstore in Ithaca, New York. A good idea in Ithaca is a good idea in Homer too.

The front of the sales counter at the Homer Bookstore serves as a bulletin board for community art events—poetry readings, plays, concerts. Tickets to most of these events can be purchased at the bookstore. 

There is a shelf called “Alaskana.” Other sections are marked “Thrillers”, “Fantasy”, “Boat Building” and “Book Club Selections.” Book club readers get a ten percent discount when they order through the bookstore. Knitters meet here once a month. They gather around a table near the coffee bar with their needles and yarn, and order espresso drinks. The coffee bar was a vision of Joy Post’s, inspired by a visit she made to the Elliott Bay Bookstore in Seattle.

When I moved to Homer in the early ‘80s, I waltzed down to the very small library, which is now a chiropractor’s office, to find short stories by Flannery O’Connor. It wasn’t in the collection. When I inquired at the Homer Bookstore, the storeowner offered to loan me a copy of The Collected Works of Flannery O’Connor from her home library. That was my introduction to Joy Post, independent bookstore owner, writer, and generous literary woman. She died in 1995, a year after she relinquished the store to Lee and Sue and a third owner, Jenny Stroyeck.

Post bought the Homer Bookstore from Maynard and Kathy Smith in 1978. The store moved to different locations around Homer over the years, finding a permanent home in 2001, on Pioneer Avenue in a building that was once Millie’s Video. There are two bay windows in front with enticing displays—Kermit the Frog with a guitar appeared in one of the windows the day I was there. On the deck out front a wooden stick man reads a book. The bicycle rack looks like moose, except the moose are purple.

Tourism once figured into the bookstore’s summer revenue but now most travelers arrive with Kindles or similar devices. They no longer need to buy the latest thrillers to entertain themselves, although locally written books still give them reason to stop in. 


As for supporting writers, Sue Post agrees that it is a symbiotic relationship. “We’re most likely to carry a local author’s book if it’s someone we’ve seen as a store customer,” Sue explained. Sue and Jenny sold books at my April reading in the Homer Public Library, the big new building complete with The Collected Works of Flannery O’Connor. They do the same for visiting writers at the library and the college. They are on hand at every Kachemak Bay Writers Conference, selling books during the day at Land’s End Resort and in the evenings after readings. They are very popular.

1 comment:

Nancy Lord said...

Linda,
You have certainly made the case for why we should all support our local bookstores. The Homer Bookstore is a real treasure! And Joy Post is a legend!