In the southern area of Pittsburgh, amongst rolling hills and long streets, tucked near the winding T rails, you will find a bookstore. But not just any bookstore. This is no Barnes and Noble, no big-box-little-people establishment. This is Rickert & Beagle Books. And it is a magical place. It’s the type of bookstore like in movies where kids find books that transport them to other worlds. It’s the type of bookstore where you get this huge smile on your face from the moment you walk in to the moment you leave.
And obviously, running such an amazing literary wonderland takes hard work. Enter Chris Rickert, who started working at the establishment when it was Eljay’s Used Books. In 2013, after the owners retired, Chris took the reigns at the Dormont shop and paired up with a certain awesome author to reopen as Rickert & Beagle Books!
That’s right. Chris is also a close confidante and social media guru for Peter S. Beagle. You know, the author who wrote The Last freaking Unicorn! And if that wasn’t enough to knock your socks off, many of the books from R&B were featured in the 2014 tearjerker The Fault in Our Stars. And she sells awesome B’nnthulhus!
Okay. Before I gush so much my blog starts oozing, let’s get to the questions and hear about how this amazing lady owns her day job.
What is your current career? This what you love doing that, if asked, you would say, “Oh, I am a ____.” Do you have a day job that supports your career?
I have two “careers”: Bookseller and handcrafter. As a handcrafter I work mainly in fiber arts: tatting & crochet are my main focus but I study all kinds of needle-lacemaking, embroidery/ stitchcraft. The day job that supports my careers is marketing/ customer service. I work as a freelancer in these fields, but most of my work is for Peter S Beagle and his publishing house, Conlan Press.
What is the worst job you ever had? How did you get through it?
Telefundraising was a nightmare. Lots of people yelling at me, old people crying on the phone because they couldn’t donate more to gun control or animal rescue, and cutthroat managers. I was so anxious before shifts I started throwing up on work days. That was an easy fix, I quit. I think I lasted about two weeks doing that. That’s how I found out that doing a job I didn’t enjoy, or at least, feel morally comfortable with, was never going to work for me.
If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice when you first started working, what would it be?
“Don’t be afraid to stand up to your bosses when they are wrong” It took me a few times around to understand that my ability to feel comfortable in my working environment was more important than being approved of by my boss.
What would you say has been your master tool for getting through difficult times when working? Is there something that is your go-to tactic for dealing with best-of-times-worst-of-times scenarios?
I have tried to remind myself that I’m there to do a job, and no matter how bad the setting is, I’m getting money in exchange for my best work. If I had a bad day and my bosses yelled at me or I had a problem with a co-worker, I could still say I did the best work I could. But in all honesty, my go-to strategy is to not work in places with a toxic culture. I’ve left high-paying management jobs and gone to work in kitchens just to get myself into a healthier environment, and while my bank account reflects this, I know I’ve saved myself a lot of stress and misery by placing my emotional health above financial well-being. (I also have to point out that my lack of children, a car or a house payment has allowed me to [do this])
With where you are now and what you are doing with your life presently, what is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from working day jobs? Is there a skill that you’ve picked up from a work environment that you would not have otherwise?
HAH! I come from an arts background, so pretty much every single skill I use in my daily work is from the jobs I worked after music school. The most valuable of those are the understanding of running a business from scrubbing toilets to high-level administration, and marketing a product or business. Some of that came from the used record store job I held for a while, but most of it came from running a large indie bookstore. The head of the company made all the General Managers build our own budgets, manage our P&Ls, run big meetings and so on. Basically, we got to try on his job and then get feedback from each other and from him. That’s the kind of experience you normally don’t get until you actually own a company, and being able to do those high-level tasks is often the difference between a failing company and a successful one. It definitely gave me the confidence to start my own businesses.
Are you interested in being interviewed for How to Have a Day Job? Comment below or shoot me an email with a brief description of what you love to do and what you do in the off hours!