How to Stock an Independent Bookstore -The Toast

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In the early 1950s you could walk around almost any small town and, if you kept your eyes above shop window level, you would have no difficulty in finding a bookseller. Lower your eyes and you would most probably discover that he was selling not books, but stationery or toys or tobacco or fancy goods. No doubt he had started out with good intentions in his heart; but over the years the “other goods” had crept in…Pokers with colored knobs, teak mice, gaily decorated tin trays and egg prickers: each in turn had its year and was then forgotten, abandoned by the public in search of the latest novelty. What will it be this year? Spoon rests? —Christopher Milne, The Path Through the Trees

Suggested Inventory for an Independent Bookstore in 2015

Turkish tea towels

Silk scarves from India

“Je suis Charlie” posters

Provencal tablecloths (2 for $95)

Tiny soaps shaped like goats, scented with calendula and musk

Free totes with bookstore logo, made of scratchy canvas that shrinks in wash (available with purchase of store membership)

Antique hot air balloonsTasteful black and white prints of nude people

Tasteless color prints of naked people

A candle shaped like Buddha’s head

Big book photos of Bad Mothers smoking, wearing red lipstick and driving convertibles (for Mother’s Day) (on sale in June)

Reproductions of vintage sailboats ($45 for small, $139 for large)

Leather handbags (Attach security devices) (Remove price tags: a customer fainted last week)

Oddly sized coffee table books on Zen Cats, Homicidal Cats, Existential Cats, The Neighbor’s Cat, Schrödinger’s Cat

Miniature “books” on grammar, etiquette, scarf-tying, table manners and How-to-Impersonate Audrey Hepburn

Remainder table holding ninety-seven Coleridge anthologies and one copy of Crocheting for Baby

Postcards of:

  • Lovers kissing in Grand Central Station, circa 1947
  • “Gay Street” sign from West Village
  • A dachshund cowering beside two stiletto-heeled feet
  • Paul Newman
  • Susan Sarandon
  • Buster Keaton
  • Audrey Hepburn
  • Katharine Hepburn (young, in wicker chair, on Hollywood set)
  • Richard Gere (middle-aged, festooned in scarf on Scottish moor)
  • Johnny Depp (at any age, with or without eyeliner)
  • Ernest Hemingway (with unidentified friends at picnic lunch in European town)

Children’s Section

Handmade wooden toys produced in Swedish factory

Nine plush pairs of Frog and Toad

Price tag 499One vintage toy car ($423 dollars)

One vintage pull toy from bookstore owner’s collection (for display only) (sticky anyway)

Five sullen-faced Corolle dolls in basket lined with Provencal tablecloth

Cashmere-soft baby t-shirts featuring Goodnight, Moon and Where the Wild Things Are ($38.50 for sizes 2T-4T, $29.50 for onesies)

Pop-up maps of NYC landmarks and Brooklyn

Make your own one-of-a-kind doll kit, including fully fashioned heads, trunks, arms, legs and outfits (dolls can be one-of-a-kind if you ignore directions on where to sew together parts; otherwise, don’t let your kid see another kid’s one-of-a-kind doll)

Terrifyingly unstable rocking horse with the name “Rosie” painted on the side, for children to play on/be murdered by

Two teenagers who “work” behind the counter and have never heard of Harry the Dirty Dog and tell everyone that Press Here is the greatest book for children ever

One copy of A Child’s Garden of Verses buried under eighty-seven copies of The Book with No Pictures

Monument to Mo Willems

One bathroom with changing table, organic diapers and wipes, all-natural hand sanitizer and two clogged toilets



Bookmarks with shop’s name and logo on them, free with purchase (or if customer runs in and grabs some and runs out)

Lilies to be scattered in vases come spring

Extra Kleenex for bathroom come spring, for largely asthmatic and allergic population of independent bookstores

Teapot tree

Maritime Soap Company everything. Everything that company makes: stock it. If it has a drawing of an anchor on it, stock it.

A cat claimed by no one, who skulks about scaring the shit out of dogs who patronize the shop with their owners (not for sale, unless price is right)

More tea towels

Leslie Kendall Dye is an actor and dancer in New York City. She has written for Vela Magazine, Word Riot, Salon, The Washington Post, The Toast, Brain,Child, Off The Shelf, The Manifest Station, and others. You can find more of her writing at

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