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  • Alice Wyatt

To Own or Not to Own...

Shop Girl for A Day


When I wake up, there is a tingle of excitement in the air, but I can't remember why. Oh, SHOP DAY! It is my day to work in Lynn's shop! Lynn wears many hats: author, publisher, professor, burlesque performer, event organizer, and businesswoman. She often travels and calls upon a shortlist of friends to babysit her little shop called The Annex.




I live a fantasy when I get to be Shop Girl for A Day. As a child, I dreamed of being not a shop-girl but a librarian. A saleswoman of the most beautiful commodity ever, books! Thunk! Thunk! Thunk! I would wield the official stamp, then push the stack back across the massive wood desk. "There you go. Thanks for coming in. See you next week." Ah, magic, the exchange of goods and services. Everyone is happy, and I would be at the center of it.

When our local book store, The Black Cat, had a FOR SALE sign in the window, I went home and cried, then the childhood librarian in me lay in bed making plans to buy it.

First - I would get a lot of money. (so many failed plans have that as a FIRST)

Next - I would convince my sister to move to New Mexico and be my partner. She is kind and useful, fiscally prudent, and reels me in when I get too excited.

Then - a magical person would appear who would turn the back room into a coffee/sandwich shop because everyone knows you can't make any money selling books. Silly dreamers!

Lastly - we would renovate the courtyard, give it a roof, and landscape the space with desert plants and cozy furniture where people can read or visit or text their mother. Finally, (is Finally after Lastly?) I would curate the best selection of kids' books in the entire state and host a weekly story-time with crafts and live animals! Due to my epic marketing skills, authors all over the SW would hold book signings that hundreds of people would attend, bringing fame and fortune to our small town!!

The very, very last thing I would do - for obvious reasons - is buy a Black Cat that will sit on the counter, in a patch of sunlight, purring when scratched under the chin. I sigh happily and drift off to sleep, tears drying on my cheeks, dreams filling my dreams.

Of course, the following day, reality sets in, and I realize only one of those things might happen in my lifetime, and it is the acquisition of yet another cat. Sigh. Loving books, loving the tidy shuffle of piles of books from one happy home to another is very different from owning your own business.

Why do I know this? After being a stay-at-home mom for 27 years, I dipped my toe into the world of "real jobs" and was hired as a server in our local brewery. (the one right next to The Annex coincidentally) I LOVED IT! I loved the customers. I loved the beer! I loved the team aspect of a busy Saturday night. I loved challenging my up-to-then static ideas of what I was capable of. When some marketing and leadership opportunities opened up, I took a deep breath and jumped in the deep end, finding I could swim just fine.

After working for three years, I also realized running a small business is a paperwork nightmare. For every hour spent happily pouring beer, three hours are spent behind the scenes. Taxes, scheduling, event planning, hiring, firing, codes, and permits are all as important as beer pouring if you want to keep the cash flow flowing.

I am not emotionally or mentally equipped for any of those things. Even my dabbling around the edges of those responsibilities took the joy out of being behind the bar. I know that the only part of owning Black Cat Books that wouldn't have me crying myself to sleep every night is the black cat and the books!

So, even though I have a busy, stimulating day at The Annex, selling vintage clothing and gift bags filled with all sorts of treasures, when I hear the oft-uttered question, "Is this your shop?", it is with a mixture of regret and relief that I answer,

"Oh no, it belongs to my friend Lynn. I am just Shop Girl for the day!"


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