Friday, May 25, 2012
Another Wonderful Book Fair
Once again, I rushed to prepare for the Rose City Book Fair in Portland (OR) May 18-19. I didn’t mean to rush – I had planned to have plenty of time. But then we had unexpected visitors, more visitors, and some more visitors. Which was lovely, since some were family and some were colleagues who bought some inventory. None-the-less, the preparation time evaporated. Fortunately, I have a lot of inventory permanently set up and ready to go – postcards, photos, maps, and ephemera. Although I had planned to sort, repackage, and index the ephemera before the show, that just didn’t get done. In time it will be.
In any case, the show – as usual – was well organized and very accommodating and friendly. None better. It is put on by the Portland Area Used Book Sellers Assn. and was started to give area booksellers a venue some years after the old Oregon Antiquarian Book Fair died. This year the Rose City show moved to a new venue – pleasingly, the site used for the old Antiquarian book fair. (The Doubletree Hotel, Lloyd Center, Portland Oregon.) Shades of the past, good memories of bygone days (and of some of the book dealers who have gone on to the Great Library in the sky). There is plenty of room for this show to grow, if only enough dealers remain enthusiastic about supporting it.
Portland as viewed from the hotel roof.
This year there were dealers from four states, and some very interesting material on display. Not to mention many with bargain books. Robert Gavorra was right inside the front door with a table proclaiming “no book over $10” and he meant it. Which actually reassured newcomers and walk-ins that this was not a stuffy environment where they couldn’t afford to enter. The show’s motto is “An unpretentious book fair.” The whole idea is to make the show affordable for dealers. There are tables for rent but dealers provide their own table covers, lights if they want them, and so forth. There are no curtains around the booths, which leaves the area light, uncluttered, and with good line of sight. (I much prefer this to all of those tedious little cloth caves that some shows provide.) On the other hand, for dealers the club provides bagels, donuts, and the like in the mornings, and sandwiches, chips, and beverages mid-day on Saturday, when some may not be able to get away from their booths to eat lunch.
Entry fees are also reasonable. $2, or a can of food and $1. The food, and half the gate receipts, go to the Oregon Food Bank. The club also left free passes on the hotel check-in counter and provides them to dealers ahead of time for distribution.
We threw the stuff into the van on Thursday morning –the sun shining agreeably (not a big deal for some, but this is Oregon). Unloaded and set up Thursday evening. Had a convivial “happy hour” in the hotel lounge with some colleagues. The show didn’t open to the public until 2 p.m. Friday (and ran until 8 p.m.) but the doors opened for dealers at 9 a.m., giving us a chance to scope (and scoop) each others’ goods. And the sun was shining. The 8 pm closing sent us to the lounge again, where the supper fare was just excellent. (The hotel restaurant was open only for breakfast and lunch, also excellent and our waiter “Ming” was delightful, funny, attentive, and still highly professional. Ask for him if you are ever there.)
Some hotel guests who wandered in seemed surprised to find themselves at a book fair. One gentleman stopped at my booth to admire a book. Said that he had just arrived and would look around. Unlike most “be backs” he did return to my booth to purchase the book ($85) and while there, had a phone call. I heard him explaining that he was at a book fair, obviously a bit stunned to discover himself there.
Saturday morning we opened at 10 and ran until 5 pm, when everyone broke down quickly and hit the road. And the sun was shining. By Monday it was raining and has done so steadily since with temperatures mid-50s to mid-60s, but who cares? It was a bright and shiny show with reasonably good attendance. There was also good walk-in from hotel guests. I did about 2/3 of my normal “take” at the show, but given the current economy and the change of venue, it was not unexpected and still represented a reasonable profit, and some new customers to follow up with. Of course I spent more than I took in, but that will flip into greater profit.
There are no words to express my admiration for the volunteers who produce and run this show. The enthusiasm and thought going into it are incredible, and the results are always pleasing.