Staff Profile: Ivy Quirk
The first time I told my mother I was going to work in a bookstore, I was 8 years old. It was not off-brand for me or my family. Bookish is putting it lightly. My family’s idea of a fun night out on the town was going out to dinner and spending the rest of the evening at a bookstore. We each retreated to separate corners: my mother roamed fiction, my stepfather holed up in magazines, my sister disappeared into the childrens department, and I spent my time bouncing between the (very new) young adult section and sci-fi/fantasy. Several hours later, negotiations began about how many books we could take home. My parents opening offer was always one and I countered with five. Our house was a riot of books. We read together as a family before bedtime every night, even after our evenings at bookstores. To say books were important is analogous to saying oxygen is a necessity.
Still, it would be over 10 years before my bookseller dream would be realized at a store that rhymes with hoarders. There were many great things about that job (books! book people!), but many bad things as well (corporate culture! unrealistic marketing campaigns!). Over the span of 5 years, I worked at both a small-scale store and a two-story monstrosity. Most booksellers will tell you their interests become honed on the job. Coworkers start to rely on you for recommendations in specific subjects and mine quickly became children’s books. There is nothing quite like giving a child the right book to spark their imagination and (hopefully) foster a lifelong love of reading. Finding something they will like and that will teach them a valuable lesson (preferably without them being aware of it) is a very delicate balance. Kids are exposed to so much media and, like nutrition, what they take in is important.
Right before the Bookstore That Shall Not Be Named closed for good, I jumped ship and moved to Los Angeles. I lost a lot of things around then and my life turned completely upside down. My response was to run very far away. It took 5 years of misery in LA to get me back into a bookstore. Not everything there was terrible (my partner and I got engaged there [fittingly in a bookstore] and I had amazing friends), but there was definitely a hole in my life. My partner and I desperately wanted to move back home. (Have you ever tried to move back to the Bay Area after leaving? It’s nearly impossible without a lot of money.) We were lucky to have a lot of support from friends and family.
When a job opened up at Bookshop, I didn’t hesitate. The application period fell on my honeymoon and I interviewed while sitting in California Adventure. The start date was the Tuesday after the honeymoon ended. I hopped a train north and my partner packed up our life (my partner is the MVP of love and supportiveness). From the second I walked back into Bookshop, I knew what I had been missing. My love of books roared to life once again. That was 5 years ago and the family I’ve built at this store is irreplaceable. My daughter will get to grow up in a community that values books and will help pass on the same passion I was blessed with as a child. Really, I can’t ask for much more out of life.
Ivy Quirk is a bookseller, assistant kids buyer, and floor supervisor at Bookshop Santa Cruz.