Murphy's is Going Out Of Business December 31st 2019

On Closing A Bookstore

greg murphy Dec 19, 2019

If you've never owned a business before, it's a very strange experience. 

It is a lot like being a parent in many ways. 

First off, they both require a LOT of time. You never really have a day off, because even when you aren't with them, they don't ever leave your mind. 

They can both be very frustrating, because kids and businesses don't always act the way they are supposed to. You try and raise them well, but when they are born they are crapping everywhere. 

It's exhausting. 

And, in the back of your mind, you are hoping that they will take care of you when you get too old to go to work anymore by putting you in one of the very nice nursing homes...

The ones with the beautiful nurses that don't smell bad at all.

As they grow, they get both get increasingly difficult to manage without help and they grow a mind of their own.

But of course there are differences as well. 

You can't burn down your children for the insurance money... at least not that I know of :)

I'm going to be a father for the rest of my life, and I'll be a business owner too... mostly because I am bad at jobs. 

(I say that, but in all actuality, I've never tried one after college. Maybe when the job isn't washing windows or delivering pizza or bartending, I would be good at it.)

I'm writing this in the bookstore I'm shutting down, early in the morning. And it is starting to weird me out being here. 

I think it's because the scale of my life is shrinking quite a bit. My impact on the world will be less for awhile and I don't like the feeling.

I won't be seeing customers. 

I won't be sharing laughs and stories.

And I won't be able to serve people the best way I know how.

Now, this might sound a little confusing, since I am going to be selling books on the internet, and in actual numbers, I'll probably have more customers now than before...

But as we all know... the internet isn't real. I assume as much, because of how awful everyone is to each other there. 

In actual life, no one would tell someone they disagreed that they should die because they don't use the right brand of soap, or raise their kids differently, or root for a different team.

Going back there full time seems like a bummer. My customers turn into a name and an address on a package, and the only communication with them becomes when the inevitable 0.5% of orders get screwed up.

It could be me, or the post office, or a dude that steals packages and is disappointed when the Amazon package he pilfered is a book on Mark Twain instead of something fun and electronic. 

No matter what the cause, people are vicious... because they also know that internet isn't real and the dude that is reading their email isn't having dinner with his family when you call him a fraud and a criminal that stole their money because their $6 used copy of Lord of the Flies didn't show up in two days. 

 When that happens you try to remember that these people are almost always regular humans too... and that if it was real life and not the internet they would find it harder to behave like the girl in Willy Wonka that died going down the garbage chute.

I've sold over a million books over the past decade... mostly online, but a huge chunk here in Dayton as well. 

No one has ever wished me dead in person... at least not out loud. 

And so, it is with some unease that I am venturing forth to sell primarily online again. 

Losing this store feels like going from Superman back to Clark Kent.

It feels like shrinking... because that's what it is.

People are buying fixtures and gobs of books and it seems like I'm seeing the store devolve into what it looked like when we first opened. 

Until eventually, after the first of the year, it will all be gone. 


And that is what is supposed to happen. 

We can't fight against market forces. 

But what I don't want the takeaway from this to be is that bookstores aren't viable anymore. 

That is just not at all the case. I personally would never in a million years try and open a bookstore that sells only new books.  I do believe that industry is going to continue to go online...

But used bookstores are something else. 

I'll have one again... maybe soon and maybe not. But it will happen. 

Because it really is the best job in the world... and the numbers really do work.

The problem with us is that we set up an operation the way that it should be 10 years into it, instead of creating something small to start with. 

If I could leave you with the number one thing that I have learned over the last few years doing this it would be the following:

Do NOT lick your fingers and then count money...

I'm surprised that the people that do that kind of thing just don't have all the diseases. I guess it is due to the miracle of the human immune system that everyone that licks their fingers before counting money doesn't have the plague. 

Or... maybe I don't know much about medicine. 

I do know that it may seem to you that since it is YOUR money, that it somehow hasn't been everywhere, but it really has. 

I love money... I love cash. But please don't lick it.... It is very bad for you :)

-Greg Murphy


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