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Thursday, 1.27.05: Being a Merchant

I suppose by now everyone is sick of hearing me blab on about ebay and wax metaphorical about the things I'm selling. But there are good reasons for it.

For starters, what else am I going to write about? For the month of January, anyway, it's who I am -- somewhere between the salesgirl at the five & dime and an international art dealer.

Also, aside from the agony of ramping up and obsessing over efficient processes, I'm enjoying the hell out of it. And maybe, in the back of my mind, I'm thinking that jotting down my thoughts as I go along is one of the functions of a journal -- watching something (you're not quite sure what) unfold. A memoir in the making.

I've already evolved from thinking I'm simply "selling stuff" to realizing I'm running a store. "Selling stuff" is the garage sale, where you are annoyed by how much time it takes to set up and impatient with sitting around all day waiting for someone to buy.

"Running a store" means you have to embrace all the backroom stuff -- the bookkeeping and inventories -- that shopkeeping requires. You need to have a Customer Service Philosophy.

I think I am genetically a member of the merchant class. My mother's parents owned a couple of grocery stores in St. Louis. That's my grandfather in the photograph here, driving delivery cart #2. He might have been a bigger success -- a chain of stores -- but died young and left my grandmother to narrow her scope to a single store.

Being a shopkeeper means your day is never done, especially if, like my grandmother and me, you live over the store. I fret that it is not the creative extravaganza that filmmaking is. (What ever happened to that screenplay I was writing before I went to Italy?) But it certainly demands intelligence and organization -- even on those nights when I'm cataloging postcards and wondering if a chimpanzee could do as well.