April in Oia. Every shopkeeper is getting ready for the high season. Shipments arrive from Fira and the mainland each day, and everyone is painting roofs, making signs, organising stock and planning sales tactics for the coming months. There are a few tourists about, and once every few days a cruise ship disgorges a hoard that fills the streets for a few hours in the morning.
But this is the time to prepare. Just like every other business on the island, Atlantis Books is kept alive by the summer – in a few months, we have to make enough money to keep the place afloat through the long slow season of the late autumn, winter and early spring. We have to get everything in order before Easter and the summer when the real business is done.
At Atlantis Books, bringing the bud of the bookshop to ripe fruition means two things – painting and stock management. My first few days were spent on the roof, painting doors, windows, and the roof terrace. Hot, sweaty work, but painting on a roof terrace in the blazing sun to the sound of melodic German techno and pop rock, with cold beer and a beautiful sunset to wind down the day is probably some of the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
We aren’t finished yet, but we’ve broken the back of it – the roof gleams a brilliant, blinding white, complimented perfectly by the deep sea blue of the doors and windows. Just don’t look at the frames or the floor of the terrace yet – they’ll be ready in time. Fingers crossed.
Painting has been put on hold because the shipment arrived a few days ago – over 2000 books from Random House, Faber and Faber, Penguin, and various other sources. This is the good shit, the best books in the shop, our premium sellers in English fiction, non-fiction, plays, poetry and Greek interest. Every new box opens up fresh treasures – excellently selected books in the very best editions. A flotilla of Faber and Faber poetry books, an armada of Penguin Modern Classics, and a battalion of beautiful Vintage Classics from Random House are amongst the highlights.
This is a shipment that has been put together by people who know and love their books, though in certain cases, the literary loves of the shop organisers has clouded their commercial judgement – we have more Raymond Carver, J.D. Salinger and John Fowles than we know what to do with. Such are the perils of a love affair with books – the desire to hoard rather than to sell.
There are a lot of boxes to get through. We were up until 4 in the morning after the shipment arrived; pricing, cataloguing, stocking, and so on and so forth. We got about a third of the way through. Ho-hum. Many days of slogging ahead before the shelves and stock are even vaguely in order (and there is an entirely new, experimental stock system to try out and perfect.)
But the shop is slowly taking shape, is becoming the beautiful temple of books that it is meant to be. It’s a lovely time to be here. The island is waking up from its winter hibernation, and is ready to burst brilliantly into light, colour and life in the coming months.