We were beyond thrilled to welcome Wendy Welch and Jack Beck, owners of Tales of the Lonesome Pine LLC, an independent used bookstore located in Big Stone Gap, VA (population 5,000 plus some change) this past Tuesday! Wendy is the author of the inspiring (follow your dreams and let your heart lead the way) book, The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap. Wendy’s book was instrumental in our decision to keep fighting the good fight… to continue to believe in Afterwords Books and what it means to our community.
When a customer kindly recommended the book to me last Christmas, I was feeling a bit discouraged. All the talk of the demise of bookstores, that with the popularity of the eReader, no one was interested in reading “real” books anymore, and with the soul-crushing closing of Border’s, I had to take a good hard look at the sustainability of a little book shop that relied on the trading and selling of used paperbacks and hardcovers. Disheartened, and feeling bullied by eReaders and the like, I curled up before a blazing fireplace, steaming cup of tea within reach, and opened up a “real” copy of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap.
I devoured the book and felt as though I were having the heart-to-heart I desperately needed. Wendy’s story of making it work against all odds inspired me to pull up my bootstraps and dust off the books that continued to sell (the ones that eReaders just don’t do justice: first and foremost, children’s books, cookbooks, art books, and graphic novels) and seek out a new nest to house our little bookstore community.
I mean if Wendy and Jack could make it work in a community that had never had (or requested) a bookstore, surely there was promise in a populace of six times more than Big Stone Gap, to offer books and a gathering place for the community and have it be embraced!
I held fast to my conviction that there will never be a day when parents and grandparents will pull their children into their laps and read to them from a Kindle or Nook. Say it isn’t so. With that dream in my heart, I continued to make it my mission to provide not only an inviting atmosphere to families to enjoy books together, but to serve as a thread in the community…a place to gather, to learn, to share, to understand, and to dream. Just like Tales of the Lonesome Pine LLC, our book shop is much more than just a place to pick up a good read. It’s a place to connect (we now offer three children’s book clubs as well as a book club and documentary club that boasts 20 plus members), to celebrate, to console and support, and, for some, a home away from home. I’m fiercely proud of what we bring to the community and so, so, thankful for what the bookstore brings to us…friends, a sense of wholeness, the opportunity to meet so many wonderful, generous, kind, and like-minded people. This bookstore is proof positive that community matters and that we can all be rich in many more ways than an expanding bank account.
The book signing and discussion that evening at Afterwords was a great success! Attendees enjoyed getting to know the “characters” of Wendy and Jack from the pages of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap and were happy to find they were both just as genuine, funny, and charming as the book described. Let me tell you that Jack’s accent alone was worth the price of admission! With bellies full of goodies shared potluck style, a signed copy of Wendy’s book in hand, and an evening shared among friends, both old and new, we all went homeward bound with the comfort of knowing that we’re all part of a much bigger story.
Wendy and Jack, and their success, are truly inspiring. Their story is about following your dreams, leading with your heart even when your head says no, no, no… it’s about nurturing what truly matters. It’s about damning the odds and creating a life that holds value far beyond the cost of a stack of paperbacks.