After working for Kroch’s and Brentano’s, I know that display top tables got a let of attention. For some of our stores, they were strategically placed where patrons would pass them regardless of what they were coming in to buy or where they were headed.  Many of the managers would stock best sellers on those tables. For the book buyer, those tables made it so much easier to look over books, pick them up and put them back or buy them. The book shelves in a store fit many more books, but people were tippy-toeing to each something on one of the top shelves or awkwardly squatting down for something on the bottom.

In my last days at Kroch’s before I started a publishing career, my brother was starting to make his mark on the retail side. He was tireless about book displays at the K & B Randolph Street Store where he worked at the time. He loved to look over the chain’s “window dresser’s” work. He admired those in retail who were great at their jobs and learned from them. He was a book display perfectionist and is to this day. As a retailer, if you have a large amount of stock, you don’t necessarily want to use this premium space for best sellers that will fly off the shelf regardless, but at the same time you can tire you customers out by dumping stuff you that might otherwise move slowly if you know your customers are not interested. In his current job for a special kind of book distributor,  my  brother works with some of the country’s biggest book sellers helping them select and display the books they have in their stores. Many are big stores, but each store may only have a certain limited space for the books they buy and display.

Sure, there are dusty bookstores that have books up in boxes on shelves 10 feet high and ladders set up to reach them. Some people love to shop at those stores, they love a treasure hunt, but that’s not my brother’s business.

At Randolph Street, I sometimes spent my time in the stockroom when book shipments came in, getting them tagged and ready to go on the sales floor. On other days, I was up on the sales floor working with customers and doing whatever my brother and the other manager needed done.

On Friday afternoon, I would often find myself taking orders from my brother to take stock from one place to another to achieve the perfect display for our books. Often we were moving books on and off those display tables. He kept things moving and fresh. My brother looked at those tables like they were a blank canvas. He was an artist, a perfectionist too, and most every position he has held in books he has had confirmed his talent.  A national book magazine once called him one of the country’s top experts on children’s books (what he was doing at the time). At a National Book show an innovative publisher received a reward for how her company was growing in spite of a poor economy–this was at one of the most bleak times for book sales.  She thanked my brother for his help in the achievement. Early on, he was an expert on magazines and their display when working on that product line.  All of his work today is done quietly behind the scenes for his employer and he takes what the economy or the business is dealing with at the time–and he succeeds.

Lesson for Today

When you have a boss that keeps having you move stock around a store or in a print display or online, it can get frustrating, but if you find yourself having to do it for someone who is an artist, cut him or her some slack and just do it.  Don’t underestimate the talent that it takes to do things well.