Riding The Wave- Episode 5
The Perfect Read really is a reflection of the inner me. The store is light and airy with shelves that seem to free float around the walls. There are two extra large love seats in the middle of the store and several large overstuffed chairs sprinkled around the store- all in muted shades of khaki and brown. There are no dark woods, no leather furniture. I wanted a modern, techie feel to the place. At the very back of the store, I have two cubicle spaces with Ikea type desks and chairs and I call it the Writer’s Nook. I’m hoping that local writers will feel free to lurk and produce in my store. The check out desk in the front, near the door, and I have a great perch from which to read, socialize, ring up sales, or just people watch- in the store or on the street.
Speaking of people watching, I was in the store hanging up “Coming Soon” signs in the display window when this guy in a t-shirt, jeans, steel-toed boots, and a hard hat walked by. He glanced at me and gave me a startled wave. I waved back and muttered an appreciative “ugh” as he headed into the coffee shop next door. Within a few minutes he was walking out the store and heading back in the direction from which he came. I was in the other window. This time, he just nodded. In his hands were two of those coffee dispenser container thingys. You know what I’m talking about. You see them at meetings all the time these days. Anyway, since there is a lot of construction on King Street these days, I assumed he was working nearby.
And I was right, because he came a few minutes later to introduce himself. I had gone to the back o bring out some books to start arranging near the front when I heard the bell on the door jingle. When I poked my head out, I saw that it was Mr. Construction Guy.
“Good Morning. Can I help you?” I asked as I headed to the front of the store. This time I was the person with their hands full. But I had books instead of coffee.
“Um, sort of. I’m just here to introduce myself. I’m Chris Sullivan and I’m working on a restaurant a few blocks down. I saw you working this morning and thought I’d come in and say ‘hello’.”
I put the books down on the counter and extended my hand. “I’m Stephanie Price. Nice to meet you.”
“Same here Ms. Price. And what are you about to open here? Another shoe store for the ladies?”
I bristled at the question. “Actually, it’s a bookstore- you know for folks who READ. It will just have the look and feel of a boutique.”
If he could hear the dismissal in my voice, he did not let on. He just smiled and looked around the store as if he were reassessing things. “The decor threw me off. This doesn’t look like a traditional bookstore.”
“Then it’s ‘mission accomplished’ for me. I wanted a different spin on things. I want folks to relax and hang out and really take their time looking for the ‘perfect read’. I want to get to know my customers so that I can make book recommendations, and I want them to get to know and trust me as their book seller. Book buying shouldn’t be a nameless/faceless experience.”
He broke out into a huge grin, and that is when I realized that I had been rambling. I skittered behind the counter, as if it could protect me from myself.
“A woman with a passion. I like that.”
“And what do you do besides run around getting coffee on Saturday mornings?”
“I told you. I’m working on a restaurant a couple of blocks down. I’ve worked on a lot of these renovations on Upper King. Did you know that in the past, folks of color owned lots of stores on this end of King? Shoot, we couldn’t cross Calhoun St back in the day.”
“I know. My mom was born and raised here in Charleston. I have to hear that lecture every time she comes downtown.”
We both laughed. It was easy and comfortable.
“So when is opening day?”
“Three weeks from today.”
“Wow- that soon. Well, it looks like you are almost ready. Some books on the shelves and your name on the door would help tip people off. All you’ve got are those ‘Coming Soon’ signs in the window. Folks have no idea what’s coming. That’s why I stopped in. That and to find out about the lady putting up those signs.”
I blushed, and hoped that he could not tell.
“So, Ms. Price, how about you let me call you sometime? I’d like to spend more time talking with you, but I’ve got to get back to work. I don’t want the boss having a hissy fit because I’m gone.”
“Um- well. I…” I was speechless is what I was. I hadn’t had a date in two DECADES. I didn’t know how to do this thing. I had been divorced for four years and hadn’t really thought about dating. I had parenting, work, and now the bookstore. I was plenty busy.
Before I could finish stumbling over my words, Chris pulled out his business card and slid it across the counter.
“Think about it. If you are interested, that’s how you can find me.”
With that, he tipped his hard hat and headed out the door. I watched him walk away before I picked up his card and read it aloud.
“Sullivan Construction. Christopher Sullivan, owner and licensed contractor.”