My Life at Urban Think! Bookstore– Finis

 

I never really wrote about my Urban Think! Bookstore tenure on this blog. It was a conscious decision– the bookstore had its own website, and a Twitter presence, and a Facebook page, and loyal customers… it didn’t need the extra injection of personality that this blog of mine purports to thrive on.

But today, my last at Urban Think!, brings to the surface a plain truth: as myriad people have told me this week, I and my co-workers were the face of the bookstore just as much as the bookstore defined us.

In my case, that was a truth that shone for nine years.

We opened in November of 2001, while the country was still reeling from the effects of 9/11. I began as assistant manager, and can clearly recall touring the bookstore site that summer when the floors were still dirt, the supporting piers still unpainted concrete. It was almost impossible to think that a working bookstore would be filling the space in a few short months… yet it did. And nothing like it had ever been created. In those early days, Thornton Park was a newly-thriving neighborhood of vernacular cottages and small apartment units; services were few, but visionaries and developers quickly filled in the blanks along Central Boulevard and Summerlin Avenue and Washington Street with businesses which would cater to the people moving in. And our bookstore was one of these pioneers. I remember thinking: I get to work in Thornton Park… and in a bookstore! It was really a dream come true, and something that I’d always wanted to do.

It was wonderful. I helped with and watched the business grow under our special brand of promotion: “guerilla marketing” was something which brought us out of the shop and into the nearby office towers armed with brochures, promotional materials, and a lot of enthusiasm. I made lots of trips up and down elevators, carrying boxes of drink “coozies” emblazoned with our corporate colors; often, I felt like Joan Crawford announcing the opening of a new Pepsi bottling plant as I bumbled my way into corporate Orlando: “Hi, I’m Jim Crescitelli… I work at a new independent bookstore over in Thornton Park.” Sometimes I got blank stares: Thornton Park?  But they soon found out where I was coming from, and some even became customers.

We weathered the vagaries of everything in our nine years: the effects of 9/11; internet competition and the ease of visiting online bookstores; racks of loss-leader bestsellers at local supermarkets; the softening real estate market… etc. Through it all, we did our best, with an eclectic selection of books, offsite book sales at dozens of locations, a separate children’s bookstore, and astounding book fairs at many local schools. Our dedicated owners (the Ustler and Harris families) were brave and dedicated beyond the call of duty to try it all, and everyone involved did his or her best to try and make it all work.

Times had changed. By 2010, my co-worker Linda and I were faced with the fact that our doors would be closing, and these past few weeks we managed to work toward a dignified closure. Today we had our final day. Many of you loyal book buyers called or stopped by to express your regrets but, more importantly, you thanked us for being such a vital part of Thornton Park for so long. And some of you even treated Linda and I to cocktails!

How many people get to experience nine non-stop  years at a fabulous independent bookstore? Not many. The events… the book signings… the parties… it was literary and social magic. We made lots of durable friends, and were instrumental in bringing a high measure of visibility to Thornton Park.

I’d like to thank all my co-workers at Urban Think! and Urban Think! Kids (our children’s bookstore in College Park) by name (I keep lists, so this is easy): Debby (our original manager), Vonnie, Tre, Kirsten, Kristin, Judith, Lisa, Toby, Elizabeth, Adam, Matt, Jenny, Paige, Ginny, Chris, John, Nancy, Katie, Linda, Lizzie, Jordan, Liz, Becky, Patricia, Madie, Megan, William, Kaitlyn, Brendan, Gary (our ace deli manager), Maxx, Madison, Andrew, Betsey and Scott, and Kathleen. To all of you, I thank you for helping make my independent bookstore experience a memorable and loving time in my life.

I wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world.

Keep reading… keep discovering new worlds… and keep in touch !

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15 responses

    • Thank you! Definitely you were one of the nicest (and hottest) guys on Central… you helped make my time at UT a fun and happy one: no drama, only good times working together: never an unkind word! See you soon at HUE !! xoxoxox ========================= NEW insane blog post: “What’s next for you, Jim?” Answered !! _http://JimmyBoi2.WordPress.com_ (https://jimmyboi2.wordpress.com/)

  1. sigh. nicely done my friend. seriously thank you for the billions of memories. we had so many laughs, really hard laughs that hurt!! urban think was a rock through many good and bad times. thank you for always being there, thank you for being there for us. thanks for the ice and the electricity after the hurricanes, thank you for giving me a place to hang my mobiles, thank you for making a complete jackass out of yourself to make me laugh, thank you for wearing that horrid wizard beard, thank you for the dr. smith impressions, thank you for farting tina! from the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything jim. hey! see you soon!

    your pal,

    doug! 🙂

  2. We called Scribbles the “Heartbeat of the Central Florida Writing Lifestyle”. Urban Think! was its soul. I simply cannot believe it’s gone. Like other lost loved ones, it will live on in fond memories.

  3. Jim, thanks for such a well written piece. Yesterday was a sad day. I think the bookstore can grow and evolve into something different and wonderful, but I will always miss it. You were the heart and soul of UTB and I appreciate all of your time, dedication and service. I was talking to someone on the airplane a few weeks ago and they had a Kindle and we went into a discussion about independent bookstores. She said “I love them, but they are a dying breed” and “who in the world would open one these days?”. Well, I said “I would” because it matters and it is worth a try. I knew the deck was stacked against us from day one, but we owed it to ourselves to try. I am glad we did.

  4. We did have some fine times Jim, too many to count! And I’m with Craig 100%: you have always been the heart and soul of the place. It’s an honor to have worked with you and to have gotten the chance to help care for such a lovely place.

  5. Thanks for all of the wonderful memories, Jim. I fell in love with UT as soon as it opened and I cherish the two years I worked with you and Linda. Be well, my friend.

  6. As always, Jimmy, you’ve taken the “high road”—I wouldn’t expect anything else from you. Congratulations on a job well done. You should be very proud.

  7. As always, you leave with class. I’m sorry the bookstore came to an end, but it only means that there’s something even more fantastic for you out there. STARTING WITH MY VISIT!

    • YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Actually, Cousin Michael (18) is here next weekend. Hopefully he won’t leave any stains in your Ikea bed… like from spilled beer !! Thanks so much for the kind comment! Things are feeling very “up” for me, so good seems to be on the way … it’s fortuitous that this is the Triduum weekend: a time of reflection and renewal. The timing is perfect ! xoxo

      ========================= NEW insane blog post: “What’s next for you, Jim?” Answered !! _http://JimmyBoi2.WordPress.com_ (https://jimmyboi2.wordpress.com/)

  8. Hi,

    Just read about Urban Think! and was so sorry to hear the news. I met you when you sold books at an event at which I was speaking. You were wonderful, and I hope you find other exciting adventures. But I’m sure your time at Urban Think! is irreplaceable.

    With all good wishes,
    Donna

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