This week’s Spotlight on Bookstores is written by Robert Tuchman. Robert is founder of TSE Sports & Entertainment, the global leader in sports event travel, and has written The 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live: An Insider’s Guide to Creating the Sports Experience of a Lifetime. He has also authored Young Guns: The Fearless Entrepreneur’s Guide to Chasing Your Dreams and Breaking Out on Your Own, which includes business advice and networking hints for young entrepreneurs. Here he pays homage to the independent bookstores, and introduces us to a unique bookseller, whose “store” is a table on a street corner in New York. My favorite quote from this essay? “Books are like bees that carry the pollen of literature from one mind to another,” isn’t that a picture?!
Books are the quietest and most available of friends; the wisest and most humble of mentors; and the most serenely enduring of teachers. Those who take advantage of the gift of literature reckon this true.
For this gift, we give great praise to those who have authored a text. But there are so many more people involved, from the man who invented the alphabet, to the man who chopped down the tree to form the pages. But one of the most special, to me, is the man who sells the book – no, not the moody teenager working for the summer at Barnes & Noble, but the small businesses that cater to their customers and care about the texts they distribute.
Books are like bees that carry the pollen of literature from one mind to another. It is these small booksellers who spread this pollen most effectively, most efficiently, and most appreciatively.
Kirk Davidson has been selling books on the corner of 73rd Street and Broadway for over twenty years. Mr. Davidson’s success can be reflected in his choice of favorite book: The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino. He sells thousands of books each year, with prices starting at one dollar. I love walking out of my apartment and across the street to peruse Kirk’s books. There is such an eclectic mix of books at his stand that he showcases and the atmosphere beats any book store around. You never know who is going to come wander up to his table of books on Broadway. I usually end up meeting so many people while I look at his books that he is selling.
In order to fuel his business, Mr. Davidson needs a constant supply of books. He gets them either through donations from local organizations or residents or he purchases them from anyone looking to sell. I often see people dropping off books for him to sell.
Mr. Davidson has the perfect location: close enough to other bookstores so that price discrepancy cannot be ignored; buttressed on every side by banks; and only a stone’s throw away from the 72nd street station. Barnes and Noble is almost ten blocks away on each side of him. He also gets a ton of foot traffic at his location walking in to the subway. If you remember the movie You’ve Got Mail, well Mr Davidson is right in that area.
On a recent day that I went to talk to Mr. Davidson, he was in the middle of a fifteen-hour day. Arriving at 6 o’clock in the morning, Mr. Davidson was not planning on leaving until 11 that evening. He is dedicated beyond what most can muster.
Although this is his main source of income, Mr. Davidson sells for more than just a profit. Mr. Davidson seeks to spread that pollen of knowledge to every passerby. Reading thousands of books over the course of his lifetime, he does not wish to keep the knowledge to himself. His mission to spread the knowledge, majesty and inspiration of literature to other people.
Mr. Davidson is the best ‘bookstore’ I have encountered because he understands what literature should be. He understands that he is not just selling ten ounces of paper, ink and glue, but a new life. He is selling the experience of love, friendship, and humor; of sea voyages, and mountain excursions. Heaven and earth is experienced in what he sells: real books.
Mr. Davidson and his collection of books have more knowledge to offer those who pass it everyday than the entire history of television. He can deliver to us the message of those who have passed, those whom we never saw, and those who lived on the other side of the globe. Mr. Davidson brings them to us on little sheets of paper to teach us, inspire us, comfort us, and open their hearts to us.
With hard economic times lapping at our feet, threatening us at an alarming intensity, I can only hope that Mr. Davidson and his collection of books last. Not to worry, Mr. Davidson argues: when you are giving people a new life for two dollars, recession cannot phase what you seek to sell.