Goin' Farther South
"What do you think the general direction of bookstores will be in the future?" we asked. "The Internet has taken a lot of our business away, and Barnes and Noble has, also," Corey replied. "When we bought the store in 2000 we bought it based on the year 2000's sales figures which, after 9/11 and the internet, just plummeted. One of the reasons we are moving is because our mortgage is too high."
Burke's is located on a very busy four-lane street, but foot traffic is minimal and the neighborhood is rather seedy at this point. "This was a great location at one time. There were more shops here and a health food store across the street, which was great, but they have since closed. Unless people are driving directly to us, they won't know we are here. When we get to the new store we are going to do night hours again and the place moving in next door to us is a coffee shop and "desssertery"…we are really thrilled; it couldn't be better. We had an abysmal 2006, but it looks like our luck has turned."
We told him we hoped so, and wished him the best. We trucked on down the road to spend several days with a friend at Horsehoe Lake, Arkansas, near Memphis. Also near Memphis are acres and acres and acres of RVs and small trailers that FEMA bought for hurricane victims and, because of Federal red tape, were never distributed to those in need; they are being auctioned off by the thousands to dealers. Our tax dollars at work.
After that break, we headed down to Biloxi, stopping two days in Hot Springs, Arkansas, former home of ex-President Bill Clinton. We dumb-lucked into one of the best and least expensive barbeque restaurants we have ever been to; McClard's. The story is that the family owned a trailer park in the 1920s and one of their tenants couldn't pay his rent. He offered the McClards "the best barbeque sauce recipe in the world" in exchange for rent. They tried it and they agreed. They have owned the establishment for all this time, and it is still run by family. We sat in Bill Clinton's favorite booth and this is one of his favorite eateries. They love him there and we saw lots of Clintoniana everywhere.
And, we found a bookstore the likes of which I've never seen before. Lambert's Swap Shop (please see the picture, it is worth a thousand words) was a large building jam-packed, I mean JAM-packed, from front to back with knick knacks, old pairs of shoes and basically bad books of every type, shape, and size including racks of bodice rippers, stacks of common, modern fiction, Reader's Digest books, and books of every type and genre on shelves and in crumbling cardboard boxes and milk cartons and grocery bags, all stacked in precarious piles that one knew would come crashing to the floor if one rooted around. It was one of those places where you had to leave your bags at the desk, not because they were worried about shoplifters, but because if you carried it, you would knock over every other stack of books. In fact, I found this out the hard way when I dislodged one stack of paperback war novels to find a lovely hardback copy of Longfellow's Hiawatha from 1898. It was probably the best book in the place. I paid too much for it, but I have always wanted to read it and it was so very pretty, with color plates, etc. All in all, I bought about 10 books and I had to do a bit of fast-talking to get a dealer discount, but I suspect the $60 I spent might be the biggest sale they've had in months. I did, however, find a couple of scarce, cheaply priced flower arranging books that my good florist customer in Georgia will want, and that will probably make up for my weakness. It was hard to believe that anyone could have accumulated that many mostly worthless books in one place.