That time we opened a book store on Black Friday

So a lot of you have written asking me about how the world’s craziest side hustle, our small bookstore in Palm Springs, is going. 

I should note that I only work on the weekends and some evening shifts, so I’m very much a tourist in the venture. I’m quite busy with this job. 


Paul is forgoing the usual time he sets aside for writing and other projects to manage things like inventory and hire folks. And we’ll see how well we’ve done at the holidays when we are going to the UK for a week just before Christmas to see Paul’s family. That will test whether or not we have, as intended, set up something that can run day to day without us. 

It’s a little scary, but really, everything about this bookstore has run on fast-forward. It was only three months ago, we looked at each other and decided that the world, democracy, the economy, our jobs, our livelihoods, everything we think of as a constant was actually so precarious. 

We might as well go ahead and make this dream of starting a local bookstore with our daughters and our bookstore dog, Radish, happen now. If we waited until nothing was happening in our lives, we’d be so broke and afraid, we wouldn’t be able to take a risk on a bookstore. 

It made a Paul and Sarah kind of sense. And we’ve gotten this far in life with that kind of sense. 

The city has been shocked at how quickly we went from an idea to a space filled with 10,000 books. And we were shocked at how thrilled the city was to have us. 

We say this a lot because other people don’t believe it, and we don’t really believe it: Until last week there was no bookstore in Palm Springs. The only bookstore in the entire Coachella Valley was a Barnes and Noble in Palm Desert. 

This is a place where people retire and finally have time to relax and read. A place where in the summer, it’s so damn hot, you are stuck inside or you are outside in a pool but you aren’t on a screen, because devices meltdown in that weather. A place where more than 10 million tourists come to read by a pool every year. 

Palm Springs locals, local celebrities and city officials, and tourists all descended on our store like the most euphoric swarm of locusts over the holiday weekend. We did many many many times our projected sales, and had to order an emergency restock Sunday night because our shelves were looking sparse! 

It blew away any expectations we had. But more than that, the love we got did. Dozens of times per day people came up and said, “WE ARE SO GLAD YOU ARE HERE!” or “THANK YOU FOR DOING THIS!” We were tagged in so many people’s social feeds trumpeting that “FINALLY! Palm Springs has a bookstore again!” 

So much of our day job here at ChairmanMe is encouraging people to use their VOICE, and to help make your writing dreams come true, whether it’s our Ready Set Write course, or Paul’s Open Book course on publishing. (And our 2023 slate of IRL writing retreats!

We spend a lot of time exhorting and encouraging you that if you write your authentic story the audience will be there. So it was rewarding this weekend to see an entire city so alive, inspired, lit up and downright euphoric to have a store offering them so many WORDS in print. 

And of course, we are doing things our way. 

One of my favorite comments came from someone thanking us for putting MALE authors in the romance section. So often, she said, bookstores elevate male authors writing what is clearly romance into general fiction, while putting just women in the disdained (BUT BEST SELLING) romance section. “That sound like misogyny to me,” I said. They seemed surprised, and delighted, to hear it said so plainly. 

Another favorite comment came from someone who said, “It is so refreshing to walk into a bookstore and see BIPOC, women and queer voices front and center. To not see the same old stuff.” 

Our name, The Best Bookstore in Palm Springs, is a bit of a joke on the fact that we’re the only bookstore in Palm Springs. But we also want to live up to it. We offer free local delivery (although everyone we told that to, insisted they were so happy there’s finally a bookstore, they’d rather come downtown to pick things up.) We are planning on having free popsicles when it’s over 100 degrees. We have dog treats. We have comfy chairs. We have Reese’s peanut butter cups behind the counter too, because they are the favorite of the editor of the Palm Springs Post. Of course you can bring your coffee in.

This weekend we heard a parent say, “You can’t do that, it’s not a library!” and we said, “Sit right down on that cozy bean bag and read as long as you want! You don’t have to buy anything!”

On Thanksgiving Day, I skipped my usual run, to go open the store because a kid had forgotten his favorite book en route to his grandmother’s house in Palm Springs and HAD TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED NEXT. 

On Friday and Sunday, I drove out to Barnes and Noble to get a couple of emergency copies of books for customers because we got so picked over! 

And, yes, we are gonna carry the same ChairmanMe values about inclusion and centering non-white, non-male, non-straight voices into this thing too. Because that’s what you get to do when you do the hard work of starting something. Make it how you want the world to be. 

We aren’t just the Best Bookstore by default, we are the Best Bookstore by design and intention too.