Friday, August 21, 2009

And a Good Time Was Had by All

We in WellerWorld set out to have a lower-key but still enjoyable time commemorating our 80th anniversary last Saturday. I'm happy to report that we succeeded.

We wanted a celebratory atmosphere: fun to be in and fun to look at without being the same old anniversary stuff. So while we did engage in crepe paper and balloons, we refrained from grilling weenies or giving away popcorn. We also highlighted our store history and the numerous books recommended by our wonderful staff. To enhance the festive feel, Tony created a play list of his most socially acceptable music for the day.

Our greatest atmospheric feat (pun not intended, but enjoyed nevertheless) was to float books from ballons, using a minimum of balloons. Anyone can float a book with a bunch of balloons. We wanted a focus on the books rather than the balloons. So we used books from the old Ten Cent Pocket Series published by Haldeman-Julius Company back in the 1920's. The diminutive gems were works published to provide the working class access to great writers and great thoughts. They're also small enough and light enough that they'll float with only a few balloons attached.

While the promised 29 Questions game was played by our customers, it was enjoyed by customers and staff alike. I mentioned in a previous entry that I'd had a truly enjoyable time parsing the questions our staff submitted for the game. It was a walk through memory lane and an education to boot. I was reminded of the lingerie store called Betty's Bra Bar that was located in the southern part of our main floor. We shared our favorite bookstore ghost stories with one another. And who knew that Edgar Rice Burroughs was once a member of the Salt Lake City Police Department?! Tony did and now others do, too. We'll be posting all 50 questions that went into the three versions of 29 Questions and the answers in this blog space shortly. In the meantime, I'm happy to convey our congratulations to the winners: Clotilde Cannon, $80 gift certificate; J.M. Stuart, $48 gift certificate; and Bill Barnhard, $29 gift certificate.

And, as promised, there was cake. We ordered two sheet cakes from the fabulous bakery, Pastry Arts Barrani. The first had your standard slogan on the front; the second said, "Get on your ass and read." The slogan is derived from something Sam used to say when talking about our logo, "Man does his best reading on his ass."

Mostly there were plenty of customers enjoying good books—both in the stacks and the discounted titles on our Staff Recommendation shelves—good music, good cake, and decent enough wine. Tony and I were touched by the well wishers who visited the store that day. We thank you. And we thank all of you who've graced us with your custom over the years. I've often said that bookselling is a labor of love and a vow of poverty. But the poverty is only financial; the riches Tony and I have gained from our customers, our coworkers, and the books are inestimable.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gentlemen Broncos Trailer

Check out the official trailer for Jared Hess's Gentlemen Broncos. Recognize the bookstore (starting at 1 minute 52 seconds)?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

29 Questions

I had the most fun at work I've had in a good long while last Tuesday when Stephanie and I selected the questions for the 29 Questions game to be played this Saturday the 15th. Last week the marketing team brainstormed questions about store history, literary history, the quirky personalities and authors who've been connected with the store. Then we threw the idea out to the staff and they came up with more great history. Stephanie and I parsed through the lists to collect the best of the best to entertain, enlighten and maybe even momentarily stump players.

"What are the questions?" you ask. Well I can't tell you that, sillies. But I'll share a few questions that didn't make the cut to whet your appetite:
  1. What publications used to call Sam Wellers Book Store on a weekly basis to get our rankings of bestsellers (we use computers now)?
  2. Which of the following three factors is most likely to cause a first edition to become valuable? Age. Influence. Rarity.
  3. What five other businesses share the David Keith Building with Wellers?
  4. What is the name of the revolutionary national program for restoring local economies that was created by booksellers?
  5. What is kept in the vault at Wellers?
"Why should I come play 29 Questions at your store this Saturday the 15th?" you ask. Because there will be cake. But also because when you answer our 29 Questions, you are entered into a drawing to win a store gift certificate for $80, $48, or $29. And what can be better than that? Especially if there's cake.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Planning our anniversary celebration this year has been a strange and delicate process indeed. Between the state of the economy, our intention to move from this location, and Sam's death, putting on an outrageous party, as we have in previous years, seemed a bit - well, unseemly. However, 80 years of bookselling is a notable feat and worthy of commemoration.

So there will be no grand party this year. But there will be festivities. On Saturday, August 15th, we will be celebrating all day long. There will be treats in store throughout the day. There will be balloons. There will be a fun contest, and there will be a sale.

Play 29 Questions with us - we added nine questions since the store was founded in 1929 - and you'll be entered into a drawing with a chance to win one of three gift certificates worth $80, $48, or $29. Our game of 29 Questions doesn't involve standing around and asking the staff whether Ernest Hemmingway was animal, vegetable or mineral. Instead, you'll be answering printed questions on a sheet of paper utilizing your knowledge of books, the store, and our cast of characters. Additionally, you'll probably be exploring the store to find those answers. Think of it as an intellectual treasure hunt, perhaps an archeological one too.

And of course it wouldn't be an anniversary celebration without that sale. We'll be selling all used books for 29% off on August 15th. Most Rare books will also be discounted 29 percent. Selected new books will also be discounted 29%, most notably, picks from our Staff Recommendation shelves. On those shelves lie the books that our knowledgeable and quirky booksellers treasure. They're the titles that have entertained us, enriched us, even changed our lives. Perhaps one of them will change your life, too.

Finally, the videos from our Moving History Project ( will launch on Youtube on August 15. There are some fine memories from excellent customers and friends. Be sure to check it out.

So come in and say hello. Explore the store and eat some cake. Talk to the staffers you know and love; meet the ones you don't. An 80-year anniversary only comes around once.

Dos Oestes pics are up

Dos Oestes "Two Wests," works by Brittany Ann Edmiston and Ben Kilbourne. This has proved to be one of my favorite shows yet. Thanks to the artists for their amazing work. Check out our flickr page, but come down to the bookstore to really see them. Excepting one of Kilbourne's pieces that is NFS, and two of his that sold at opening, all works are for sale at reasonable prices. Contact us for availability and pricing .

Thursday, August 6, 2009


We met on Tuesday, the 28th of July to chat about Jess Walter's Citizen Vince. Jess Walter agreed to call in the bookstore and answer any questions we may have had. He was very nice and generous with his time. His spoke like one of his characters might: clipped, succinct, also meandering (providing conversational fodder later for our bookgroup).

The format for this kind of thing errs on the informal side, we all write down questions and I draw them out of a hat or bag. When a question is drawn the asker asks the author. This goes on for several questions (between 3 and 5) and usually last 15 – 20 minutes. Walter's early writing career was grounded in journalism, and he told us how this cemented in him the need for the exact word; leaving no words to waste. Fortunately for us, he elaborated with his answers, and painted a vivid picture for the group on his process. He talked about why he chose to write a book in the eighties and what this generation may be able to gleam from the Reagan/Carter race. We also asked him about some themes represented in Citizen Vince, like starting over, or being a good bad guy, or a bad good guy. He answered all of our questions fairly, and was a very funny guy.

He also gave us a thumbs up on the next selection for bookclub: Gun, with Occasional Music, by Jonathan Lethem. Meet here, at Sam Weller's lower level August 25th, at 6:30 PM.