I was trying to figure out what facebook is for besides killing time while I put off writing or some household chore. Then last Monday I saw lots of activity and unexplained comments made to my friend Nancy, with whom I recently reconnected. We attended college together at UW-Milwaukee. In the early 1990s I worked for Harry W Schwartz Bookshops in Milwaukee. Nancy still works there.
But on Monday the employees learned that after 82 years, at the end of March the independent, family-run shop will close. Though it's been years since I worked there, I still feel a fondness for the shop and an appreciation for what it represents in the community of readers and writers. A gathering place with author events hosted by people who love books. Great books.
Just a week before when I was adding a bookshelf to this site, I noticed that it offered a link for people to buy the book from an online bookstore. That's when I posted the note telling you about my favorite local bookstore here in Anchorage. (That would be Title Wave.) Little did I know that my friend's employer was about to close its doors, partly because of the competition from online sales; partly from the current financial problems that face so many Americans.
I know it's easy to shop online and that's why so many people do it. Besides, there are some things that just can't be purchased in Anchorage (like my favorite granola). But if you can get something locally, even if it's to have something ordered by a local shop, it supports local jobs. And those people are our neighbors and their friends and family. And if too many people stop buying locally, shops like the best book store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, go away. And I wonder if that can happen here to my favorite bookstore or to the bike shop where I work.
After all, these are more than just places where people buy things. They are shops where people meet to talk about the things they have in common, to share their passion, whether it is for words or bicycles... or both. These are the places that feed our desires to interact, to be validated, to have contact with like-minded people. These are the places many of us go to experience community.