Early Summer 2007
Chinaberry came into existence 25 years ago. I will always remember the feeling months before -- the emotional, mental, and physical sensation that washed over me and through me the instant that inspiration struck. My husband and I were driving from Seattle to Portland one August day, when I knew without a doubt that a children's book catalog with detailed descriptions of the books our family and our friends' families enjoyed would be welcome in others' lives. I was assuming that there were countless parents like me, a little idealistic and convinced that if you do your best to treat others as you would have them treat you, and surround your children with images and experiences that are in line with this way of being, surely the world would be a more gentle and peaceful place. Finding books that showed characters being kind and respectful to each other, appreciating the natural world, having innocent fun at the expense of no one's feelings, and being true to their best selves was my small attempt at enriching the lives of those who would eventually grow up to make choices that would affect our world and planet.
So, the first Chinaberry catalog, hand-lettered and 40 pages long, came into being -- all 400 copies that I took a chance on having printed. A rented P.O. Box, a tiny ad in Mothering Magazine, and a Rolodex on the kitchen counter all set the stage for what turned out to be an affirming and heartwarming ride. As orders trickled in, I found that I was right: there were parents who cared in the same way that I did. Two-year-old Elizabeth helped me pack books at the kitchen table (with an occasional fork or spoon added in with the orders, I came to find out later) and long distance friendships began that last to this day.
While a lot has changed through the years, there's also a lot that hasn't. The kitchen table is no longer the packing station, but we still read thousands of books to find the few that make it into the catalog. Today you can expect our Customer Service representatives to answer your call, rather than whatever family member happened to be near the phone when it rang. We order stock now, not in 4 or 5 copies of a title, but in the hundreds. Thank heaven our accounting department has taken bookkeeping off my hands, and ever since our very first employee appeared on the scene, we have been privileged to have staff that any company would die for.
Now Chinaberry is serving a new generation of parents and children, and we no longer send out forks and spoons in your orders. But some things will never change, like our commitment to being a beacon of light in this sometimes harsh world.