The past five years of Left Bank Books’ career in St. Louis has arguably been the best we’ve had. The supposed death of bookstores and recession be damned, we’ve done some pretty cool stuff, even if the only one who got rich and famous was Spike, our beloved bookstore cat.
After our business partner, Barry, retired from the bookstore in 2009, Kris and I worried about whether we would be up to the task of keeping this stubborn St. Louis institution alive. His shoes were giant, and almost impossible to fill. Add to that the birth of the second location of LBB downtown and the pressure was on.
One of the many fortunes we count at ye olde bookstore, is the smart, ambitious, talented, hardworking, dedicated and patient (with both the owners and the customers) staff of booksellers we are lucky enough to have.
I’d like to take a quick moment on this blog to thank one in particular who has been with us these past five years and has grown our events series into a force to be reckoned with.
Danielle Borsch interviewed for her job at the beginning of 2008. One of the reasons she got the interview was because her resume had honest to god footnotes and hinted at the magnetic, dynamic person she is. We were worried because she had two other jobs – one hosting bar trivia and the other producing and acting in The Immediacy Theater troupe she formed with
her friends. I wish I could go back to the meeting with Kris and Barry after that interview and tell her how wrong we were to have worried about her ability to manage her time, how she would meet and exceed our expectations. Every. Single. Time.
The three of us grew to love her and depend on her spot-on intuition about hosting events. During her tenure, we hosted the likes of Jimmy Carter, Tony LaRussa, Terry McMillan, Jonathen Franzen and David Sedaris (more than once) and hundreds more.
It was fitting then, that her last event with us was this past Saturday, when David Sedaris stopped at our Downtown store to read from and sign his newest book, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls. We’ve hosted David on every one of his book tours, and knew that this event would be big. It would need experience. It would need stamina. It would need talent. It would need Danielle.
Kris and I sat on our couch scowling out the window around 3pm when we heard thunder.
We were all set up to do our outdoor listening party on the streets of downtown St. Louis complete with tents, lawn chairs, beer, food – and books – lots and lots of paper objects that don’t mix kindly with Midwestern spring weather. I say we scowled because of the thunder, but I have to admit that my scowl was also the result of the worst ear infection I’ve ever had. So bad, in fact, that I missed one of my favorite
authors AND the last event of one of my best friends. My sister and her friend volunteered to work the event, and around midnight, she came back to my house reporting that when David arrived, the clouds went away and the sun came out.
It was 3 am before poor Kris got home, still buzzing from the event and far past her ability to be coherent about it, but I did hear stories from that night from those who were there. Mostly the surprises were limited to the good to the weirdly good – the giant sticker books David brought with him, from which he selected one for each customer and incorporated the sticker in the autograph of the book; the patient waiting for a lung transplant who made it to the event and talked to her favorite author; the Mormons who left a very kind note for him because they couldn’t stay.
The event went well, and ushered in the era of our next Event Coordinator, Hannah Nutt, who, like I did when Barry left, has big shoes to fill, but I’m not worried. She has taken the reigns and will steer this event series in her own way, with her own (many, many) strengths. We’ve also moved one of our best booksellers, Lauren Wiser, into our events and publicity mix.
I say this because I will miss Danielle for so many reasons both professional and personal that it has been hard to untangle the layers. I’ve been writing this blog post, and even in its writing a piece of sunshine has peaked through the thunderous clouds in my head. I’m remembering the anxiety we’ve had every time one of our bookstore family members leaves and the uncertainty that comes along with replacing that very unique, seemingly irreplaceable person.
I’m also remembering the hope and joy and fun in discovering the humor, strength, passion and fortitude of the new members of our family. I can’t wait to get to know our newest member better. I can’t wait to see what she and Lauren come up with.
As I see it, the main strength we have as a store is our ability to look forever forward. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do.
I can’t wait to see what we can do together.