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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Of Blogs, Books and Burritos

Posted by Matt Davis on Wed, Dec 17, 2008 at 9:42 AM

"What a great son, huh?" says Roberta Dyer, the owner of Broadway Books at 1714 NE Broadway.

"He didn't ask me if he could do it, or tell me he was going to," she continues. "I was surprised, but I had mixed feelings about it, because you know you don't want it out there that your business is in trouble. But it seemed like he was emotional about it, and that this was a very heartfelt thing to do."

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DYER (right): WITH BROADWAY BOOKS CO-OWNER SALLY MCPHERSON...

Dyer's son, Aaron Durand, wrote about his mother's bookshop being in trouble on his blog, Everydaydude.blogspot.com, last Thursday, December 11: "My father told me that business this winter season at my mom's store had been incredibly bleak. So much so that the future of the store could possibly be in jeopardy," he wrote.

Then, Durand made an unusual offer. He said his parents are coming to visit him in San Francisco—where he moved from Portland in August, and now works in sales for Birkenstock—on Christmas Day, and that he wants his mom to be smiling. So:

Meet me at Cha Cha Cha on SE Hawthorne in Portland on Friday January 16th at 6PM with a receipt from Broadway Books for over $50 and between today's date and Christmas and I'm buying your kind ass a burrito.

He wrote about the offer on social networking sites Facebook and his everydaydude Twitter feed, and all of a sudden, his blog went from its usual hundred hits a month to 400 on the first day.

The next day, Dyer saw 12 more customers in her store. And there was a difference.

"I'm a middle-aged lady catering mainly to an older, Irvington clientele," she says. "But all of a sudden there were all these marvelous and exciting young people coming into the shop. And none of them said 'I'm here to claim the burrito,' or anything like that, but the next day, Aaron got a photo on his phone of a receipt from our shop for $105, and an order for two burritos!"

"I've known Aaron for a long time," says that friend, Billy Kemmer, who happens to manage a homeless shelter here in Portland for service provider TPI. "It's totally like him to send something like that out, he's one of the most generous people I've ever met. I believe in the community around here, and things like this help it survive."

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GOOD FOR TWO BURRITOS: KEMMER'S RECEIPT...

"Another one of my loyal customers who works at Wieden and Kennedy saw the blog and told all his friends about it, and came in here and dropped $200 on books!" says Dyer.

Durand loves burritos. He came up with the idea to buy people burritos because "it's a currency I use with my friends. That's what we use as a monetary value, do this for me and I'll buy you a burrito," he says. "It's just a lot more fun than saying, hey, I'll give you $5."

Durand says he's excited to see who shows up at Cha Cha Cha on January 16th. Although now the story has been written about on five local blogs, he's a little concerned about running out of cash.

"I've got $1000 left on this one credit card," he says. "And at $6 a burrito, I guess I'm going to have to cap it at 166 burritos."

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Still, Durand says he's never felt better about digging himself into a thousand dollar burrito hole.

"Although there have even been people on the websites saying they don't care about the burrito," he says. "Which is kind of nice."

You can read the Broadway Books Blog here.

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