Dear festive reader,
Ten years ago, our small town of Palmer, Alaska, welcomed a new arrival. It started when a sign appeared in the window of a shop on main street. Over the years the building had housed women’s clothing, adventure games, and flower arrangements, among other business ventures. But this sign said something to the effect of “Book store coming soon.”
Having lived in this town my entire life, I can honestly say this was the most extraordinary thing I had ever seen. More exciting, even, than the time the moose trampled the police car at the main intersection.
When the sign went up promising a bookstore, my mom and I and all of our reader friends began keeping close watch. We would phone each other: “I walked by today and they were putting up shelves.” “Do they have an open sign yet?” “When are they going to open?!?”
On the first week of December 2001, David Cheezem and Melissa Behnke officially opened Fireside Books. And during the past 10 years they have created a hub of arts and literature in our community. It is a place where readers come for books, writers come for inspiration, and thinkers come to talk about politics, philosophy, poetry and the weather. It is also a place for starving artists to find gainful employment.
Two years after they opened, I realized I was ready to leave the newspaper business. I thought long and hard — if I were to work anywhere else in our community, where would it be? Only one place came to mind. I walked into Fireside Books as a regular customer and asked if they were expecting to hire anyone soon. I am perpetually grateful for that day David and Melissa welcomed me onto the staff as the only full-time employee at the time.
Eight years later, I have come to consider Fireside Books a kind of second home and “bookseller” an important part of my identity. We no longer have a spare inch on the shelves — we have had to convert the basement into a storage warehouse for the back stock, and we fight for room to display our favorite titles face out. We are often swimming in used books to process and customer orders to receive. It is a busy, wonderful place to be.
So happy birthday to Fireside Books, and a heartfelt thank you to David and Melissa! You have helped make our small town a better place.