As we celebrate Bas Bleu’s 25th anniversary, we’re reflecting on our history and the wonderful people and (sometimes crazy!) early years that made our company what it is today. This week in the Bluestocking Salon, Bas Bleu’s longest-standing employee, brand manager Christie Hall (whom our readers know as CH), reflects on her arrival at Bas Bleu; the company’s early days; and the influence of her mentor and friend, founder Eleanor Edmondson.
I graduated as an English major from the University of Texas in 1995. Having no idea what to do with myself, I decided to move to Atlanta, Georgia, where my brother was in graduate school. To make rent money while I searched for a job, I called a temp agency, and the very first place they sent me was a fledgling book catalog company called Bas Bleu. Yes, I am the luckiest English major alive!
The temp agency had described the company as “a nice lady with a catalog,” and I remember thinking that sounded dreadfully bland. But then I met Eleanor Edmondson. Whip-smart, hilarious, business savvy, and extremely well read…my new boss was dazzling. And the company she had created was brilliant: a friendly neighborhood bookstore delivered to your mailbox!
In those days, the whole operation—the call center (three phones); the warehouse (a closet); the accounting department (Eleanor); the production department (also Eleanor); etc.—was run out of a single office. We all wore many hats. Eleanor took me under her wing and mentored me to grow along with the business. I even got to read and write as part of my job. It was all so thrilling!
And so we grew…expanding into an additional office space, then another, and then moving into an actual warehouse. We designed the office space within the warehouse to perfectly suit our needs. We hired more and more people, each one a fascinating character. Bas Bleu was really humming! From 1994 (when she founded the company) to 2007 (when she sold it to Universal Screen Arts), Eleanor was an extraordinary CEO, leading with kindness and generosity, hard work and high expectations, intelligence and grace.
All along the journey, Eleanor inspired us. When the Summer Olympics were in Atlanta in 1996, Eleanor bought tickets enabling all of her employees to watch some events in person. When there was a fistfight in the warehouse, Eleanor ran back and restored the peace. Every Christmas Eleanor could be found in the warehouse pulling orders or packing boxes (and she was the best gift wrapper we had). Despite how busy she always was, Eleanor personally (and eloquently) responded to just about every single letter our customers wrote to us. She even hosted those of us without families in Atlanta for Thanksgiving on multiple occasions. I could go on for days about this incredible woman, and am so grateful to have learned from her and to still count her among my dearest friends!
I’m also enormously grateful to be nearing my twenty-fifth year with Bas Bleu. From clueless temp worker to seasoned Brand Manager…I’ve enjoyed every step of the way. I still feel Eleanor’s guidance in all my professional endeavors—appreciating our wonderful customers by providing top-rate service, writing honest copy that “sparkles” with good humor and a friendly tone, selecting a scintillating assortment of “odd little books” and inspired gifts for readers, mentoring (and learning from!) my incredibly talented staff and colleagues, building positive relationships with our publishers and other vendors, and making sure Bas Bleu stays profitable year after year so we can continue to commune with our lovely, bibliophilic customers.
Thank you, Eleanor. Thank you, Bas Bleu/Universal Screen Arts. And thank you, all you delightful bluestockings out there! (CH)
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