In April 1837, a “long, gawky, ugly, shapeless man” new to town walked into Joshua Speed’s dry goods store in Springfield, Illinois, looking to buy supplies. When Speed totaled the items they came to $17, and the cash-strapped newcomer asked for credit until Christmas. The customer was none other than a 28-year-old Abraham Lincoln, a quarter-century before he would take the oath as the 16th United States president – and legend has it the store owner took an immediate liking to him. Speed spontaneously offered to share the large room he had upstairs and Lincoln wordlessly gathered the two saddlebags that contained his life’s possessions and walked up. He came right back down and said, with a big smile, “Well, Speed, I’m moved.”*
I’ve carried that story in my heart since I first read it to my wee Koropps, so when we move any of them where they are going and set down the first load, I always exclaim, “Well, Speed, we are moved!” I said it again when we moved Prairie Path Books’ first truck-load into 255 Town Square Mall last week, but the movers didn’t seem to appreciate the Lincoln reference. I do think they’d have been thrilled if all I had was a few saddlebags rather than hundreds of boxes of books and 2200 square feet of furniture.
I love the amiable ease and neighborliness of the Lincoln story, and of course my favorite president’s wit. All that warmth was everywhere Wednesday when we opened our store doors for the first time. When one of you mentioned that she couldn’t believe we closed Saturday at 6 and opened 2 miles south 3 days later, I was glad I’d never thought of it that way when we set our new store opening date.
How’d we do it? With lots of help from friends. Of course my staff was amazing as always; there are many reasons it’s great to be a bookstore and way high among them is that great people want to work there. They were all consumed with “packing the saddlebags” and so we relied on friends and family to fill the gaps. For example, Yankee Candles are half as high as books so every single shelf in every single double-deep case had to be adjusted – that’s right, with all those pesky little pegs. Who on earth do I call for that?! Turns out my Valentine, yet again. Hubby Dave and his three buddies spent four hours Sunday making the shelves bigger for the books being moved in the next day. They were part of a huge group of friends and family that boxed and carried and shelved and vacuumed and dusted and mopped then baked and twinkle-lighted and poured. My heart was full on Valentine’s Eve for our party and it still is. Special thanks to Susan SZ, my 20-year Toms Price designer, for helping create the space. To Wendy and Cathy who answered my texts at 4pm that night for an extra layer of confidence and support I needed for that last-minute party push. And to Jen, Chelsea and Pat, who know what they did. I’ll never forget any of you, truly.
Well, Wheaton, we are MOVED. Come see us.
*adapted from an article in Smithsonian Magazine