Saturday, March 05, 2011

Singing Wind

I spent last weekend traveling around Arizona for events - Saturday at Velma Teague Library in Glendale, hosted by my favorite librarian/book review blogger, Lesa Holstein, and Sunday at an event in the most unusual bookstore I've ever seen, Singing Wind Bookshop. Singing Wind is located on a working cattle ranch just outside of Benson, Arizona, which is some 60 miles east of Tucson, in the southern part of the state. The shop is owned by Winn Bundy (below left, with me) and her husband Joe and managed by the inimitable Kathy Suagee( right). I don't want to betray any confidences, here, but I will say that Winn and Joe are people who have been around for a while, Arizona ranchers who are about as no-nonsense as they come.

Singing Wind has been a Tucson/Benson/Sierra Vista institution for decades, and is going strong, I'm pleased to say, even though it is located out in the wilderness, and one literally has to drive half a mile down a dirt road to get to it. The parking area is an empty field some yards from the house (Yes, the shop is in the ranch house), and you get the added pleasure
of a nice hike past a herd of friendly horses to get where you're going.

Much has been written lately about the demise of bookstores. If Borders stores can't make it even though they are the size of Walmarts and located in the middle of affluent population centers, what can be the message when an eclectic shop like Singing Wind - which does not even have an internet presence,
I might add - is still drawing crowds of 75 to 100 people per event?

Part of it certainly is that Singing Wind is unique. It is also a southern Arizona institution, as is Winn herself. She puts on large author events several times a year and includes a big buffet spread. She advertises in the local newspapers and has an international mailing list. I always meet several Canadians when I'm there.

When the weather is nice, which it usually is, the luncheon is outdoors under the trees, often a barbeque. Last weekend was chilly (in fact I saw snow for the first time in five years), so she laid out the buffet in her living room. I would guess that fifty or sixty people showed up, for which Winn blamed the snow. The last time I was there in February, there were easily 100. Four mystery authors (Elizabeth Gunn, Susan Cummins Miller, Jeff Marriott, and myself) spoke and a fabulous local folk band called the Ronstadt Generation performed. We all mingled and schmoozed,ate together, laughed a lot and signed dozens of books apiece.

Has Winn has caught lightning in a bottle, or does she simply adhere to the basic tenet of retail? Give the people what they want, which in this case is a great product and an equally great experience.

4 comments:

Vicki Delany said...

Sounds fantastic!

Donis Casey said...

Every author's dream gig.

Cathy said...

I can't wait for our annual June trek down to Bisbee so we can stop at the Singing Wind. It's just the sort of place that, if you've been there, you have to blog about it. (I speak from experience!)

Donis Casey said...

Cathy, I read your great Singing Wind blog entry from last June on http://kittlingbooks.com. It's just such remarkable place that you can't believe your eyes the first time you go out there. And BTW, I'm glad you're feeling better.