Editor's Note: After more than 35 years as independent booksellers, the ladies at Pinocchio's: The Children's Bookplace are writing the final chapter to their storied career.
Earlier this month, I learned that owners Judy Korones and Miriam Epstein had decided to retire and close their popular shop on Brookhaven Circle.
To many families across Memphis, their's was a book lover's refuge, a magical place perfect for browsing or being guided to that just right right book for a young reader. As an editor, I often relied on their expertise for book recommendations and knowledge of children's literature, and for that, I will miss them. Moms like Kimberly Baker, who has had a long and personal relationship with the booksellers, will miss them for other reasons.
I will never forget the day of my interview. It was a sunny August afternoon about one week after my 16th birthday. I had my learner’s permit and turned onto Brookhaven Circle pulling up the driveway to the eye-catching yellow, orange and green house. As I walked up the steps to Pinocchio’s I was a little nervous, but then I saw something fantastic.
There was a familiar poem by Shel Silverstein on the front door, written in calligraphy. It read:
Hug O’ Warby Shel Silverstein
I will not play at tug o’war I’d rather play at hug o’war, Where everyone hugs Instead of tugs, Where everyone giggles And rolls on the rug, Where everyone kisses, And everyone grins, And everyone cuddles, And everyone wins.
After reading that poem I was smiling. I didn’t feel nervous anymore. As I opened the door, a little bell announced my arrival. I was welcomed by owners Judy Korones and Miriam Epstein, who took me around their charming bungalow of books before the interview in their cozy kitchen.
Even though I was just 16, Mrs. Korones and Mrs. Epstein seemed interested in what I had to say and (even better) I was interested in what they had to say. Best of all, we talked about books. They told me about what my responsibilities would be as a bookseller — and I do remember them using that word, bookseller — and how it rolled off the tongue in such a lovely way.
On my way out, I thanked them, and there was a spring in my step as I made my way to meet my mom. I felt a little grown up, but I also felt a little like Ramona Quimby, the precocious character in Beverly Cleary's books, or Pippi Longstocking, made famous by Astrid Lindgren. All of the books from my childhood came rushing into my mind and I welcomed them.
Two weeks later, I started working at Pinocchio’s. And I was there, every Saturday, for two years of high school and fours years of college. The ladies taught me the art of being a bookseller and of customer service. I attempted to make shopping easier for parents by giving their children a chance to explore the playroom. I discovered (and re-discovered) worlds between the pages of the books. The real life stories that were shared by my coworkers and customers were equally captivating.
My time at Pinocchio’s informed my book choices for my students when I was a teacher, and later as a parent, devoted to raising readers. Over the years, bringing my own two children to the store brought me great joy. I know this store was a labor of love by Mrs. Korones and Mrs. Epstein.
Although there will soon come a time when that jingling bell at Pinocchio’s is no longer heard, the memories and stories from inside this treasured shop will live on. This is especially true for any of us who open up a book that we found inside this special establishment.
Thanks to Mrs. Korones and Mrs. Epstein for their service to the children and families of Memphis for 35 years. May you enjoy your retirement and know all of us are grateful for the way you welcomed us into your magical store full of books.