by Cesca Janece Waterfield
Her Carytown bookstore may be called “Precious Memories, ” but Owner Linda Pate wants to leave only one memory behind: “I want to have a legacy that says, ‘She died trying to help someone learn to read.’”
This month marks Precious Memories’ 5th year in business. To celebrate, they’ll host a Grand Re-Opening organized by Linda and her daughter Jaynee Sasso, and held at the homey plum-colored shop at 3229 Idlewood Ave. After the balloons float away, it’ll be business as usual at Precious Memories – with a few new twists. Jaynee, 30, will work as Store Manager. In her new role, Jaynee will rely on and add to her extensive background in financial planning and real estate. “We want to incorporate more interactive programs for customers because we know we have to do more than sell books,” Jaynee says. “We’ll also keep some things my mom had in place like the chocolate tasting” she says, referring to the store’s sweetest event, the “Annual Chocolate Dip & Sip” event, where everything – and we mean everything – is made of chocolate.
There’s already fresh paint, and plans for expanded inventory in some new displays. But one thing won’t change at Precious Memories: its bond to community. Precious Memories is devoted to the community-at-large, as well as its own close-knit neighborhood. Linda says, “The community has been here for years. The bookstore kind of added some value. The neighborhood got to know us through our events.” When her husband David had surgery two weeks ago for a spinal injury, he wasn’t able to complete his usual schedule of maintenance around the shop. “I have neighbors who come and cut the grass,” Linda says. “That kind of trust, when I told everyone we were going to close to renovate, they said, ‘You’re not closing, are you?’ They like what they see. They protect it as if it were their own.”
Pate strives to make sure that visitors to Precious Memories feel like the store is there just for them. She also feels a protective responsibility for them. To say she has resisted selling urban literature doesn’t quite convey her opposition to the racy and sexually frank genre that’s flying off shelves. Pate isn’t having any of it.
“Photos of G-strings? No. What kind of message does that send our young women? Let Barnes and Noble sell that,” she says emphatically.
What browsers will find at Precious Memories are inspirational titles, spirituality, self-help, and plenty of independent authors. Her focus on independent authors extends to helping the best develop media packages and business plans.
Although she runs a business that is at home in Richmond, Linda moved here only eight years ago, from Orange, New Jersey, where she grew up. After graduating high school, Linda attended Seton Hall, as the first African American the prestigious school awarded a Martin Luther King Scholarship. She dropped out her final year and went to work as a Systems Analyst. “I talked to computers all day,” she remembers.
She enjoyed New Jersey and living close to her vibrant mother, Gertrude Gary. But as Gertrude aged and prepared the family for her passing, she said to Linda, “God created this beautiful world. Go see something. She talked to us about being open-minded, not being afraid to try different things. She said, ‘You have to trust God like a mother trusts a Pamper.’”
Linda and Jaynee laugh at Gertrude’s down-to-earth metaphor, but admit to remembering it almost daily, and reaching for a similar faith. “My mother instilled that in me. I had to have a library card. On Saturdays, I could watch a little TV but I had to go to the library, get books, read, and I had to write a book report. My mother always told me, ‘What you get up here,’” – Linda points to her head – “’no one can take that away from you. So get it up there.’”
Gertrude died August ’99. Her husband and Linda’s father, died precisely two years later on the same day. It’s a coincidence that for Linda affirms the presence of divinity in everything. “I trust God, whatever happens,” she says.
Like her mother, Jaynee is a lifelong reader who isn’t afraid to meet new challenges. She moved to Richmond a few months ago from New Jersey. Her moxie may be partly due to early independence. At age 13, she won a full scholarship to boarding school, Kents Hill, and left for Maine. “It was fun,” she remembers. “I enjoyed it. I’ve always excelled in school. It’s a huge part of who I am. It allowed me to be independent and do more than other kids my age.” She attended Clarke University in Wooster, Massachusetts. Instead of graduating, she worked consistently to learn more about finance, and earned her real estate license. Today, Jaynee says, “I enjoy reading anything about finance and personal development.”
“I didn’t know this day was going to come,” Linda says, referring to her business anniversary. But as Linda and Jaynee plan the Grand Re-opening, the faith and reverence for reading that Gertrude instilled long ago, is present.
“Remember to catch yourself reading,” Linda says. “I’ve just always said that. You catch yourself hanging on the corner? No. Catch yourself reading.”