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On the Importance of Books, Community, and Covington

Last week, the Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington honored many community leaders, agencies, and a pair of related businesses. Roebling Point Books & Coffee and Keen Communications, located at 306 Greenup Street in an historic building where John A. Roebling had his construction office while the Suspension Bridge was being built, were the recipients. Owner Richard Hunt could not attend the awards ceremony as he was away on business, but he asked Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News (which rents an office in the building) to read his works. They were such a loving tribute to books, community, friends, and Covington, that those words must be re-printed here.
 
We writers and publishers are genetically fond of metaphors. Very possibly, overly fond. So, even though an action might be unwise, treacherous, or flighty (akin to starting a bookstore or a newspaper) we persevere, hoping we’ll end up with a good story, or even better, an apt metaphor once the injury heals. 
 
The metaphor here is that a city needs a bookstore and a newspaper like a body needs a heart and a mind. You can pick which one is which, just know, it’s true.
 
The following lines were composed in my head while mopping the floor after the shop closed for the day, because that’s what small businesses do – after everyone has gone home for the day, we roll up our sleeves and clean, and type, and prep to move things forward and be ready the next day. But it’s especially during those quiet times that one reflects on the role we hope to play in this community and the lives of those who grace us with their company.
 
For everyone gathered here tonight, we feel the same as we do for every customer -- your presence transforms us and your kindness touches our hearts.
 
First and foremost, we’re completely indebted to the Center and the community at large for this recognition. Actually, the correct word should be communities, as there are many “groups” that we gladly embrace and support and reach out to: readers, neighbors, authors, social advocacy organizations, not-for-profit ventures, visitors, Covington, Northern Kentucky, Cincinnati, the cosmos, and on and on. 
 
For this opportunity, we have to first thank two people in particular as they provided us the place and permission to start RPB&C. Or as Michael Monks likes to call it, RoPoBoCo
 
In the words of Virginia Woolf, there is no there there without Marilyn and Martin Wade. They’ve generously allowed us to operate in a building that once was home to John Roebling’s construction office back when the suspension bridge was being built. As another metaphor, we’re grateful for the chance to be a bridge between centuries as well as the connector between eager readers and appreciative authors. By whit of the Wades’ support, we in turn can help grassroots groups who need a place to meet and plan (and occasionally celebrate), individuals who need time to reflect and refresh and maybe heal, and continually serve to further free expression by opening our doors for readers every day. Glory be.
 
My father never talked much, but one of his lines (spoken in his not-so-warm and fuzzy Germanic tight-lipped way) was “Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back,” so I’ll step lightly and quickly here. We humbly thank the Center for Great Neighborhood for this award – it means the world to us. 
 
We're lucky because our customers at Roebling Point Books & Coffee are an astute, caring, and diverse crowd. One of the things I’ve learned after thirty years in publishing is that readers are both inquisitive and appreciative of creative approaches. We salute every piece of work that’s produced with the 3 H’s of an individual’s personality: i.e., hands, head, and most importantly, heart.  We want to show how much we value their making something that embodies the best of what a person thinks and feels... and that we understand how hard it is to achieve that, to fashion that internal ideal into a visible, tangible, admirable reality.
 
We're committed to giving the people in Covington a place they can call their own. Every time we get to put one of our favorite books in someone’s hands as a recommended read, we’re reminded of why this pursuit means so much to us: sharing words of insight and comfort. 
 
Founding Roebling Point Books has allowed me the pleasure of meeting hundreds, if not thousands, of people that I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to come to know otherwise. Fascinating, fortifying folks who constantly rekindle my faith in the human spirit. Through the five different imprints within our publishing house, we have almost 150 years of experience... which makes us just about as long-standing as Covington. On our shelves we collectively have centuries of authorial insight and worldly achievements. All of this comes together to remind me daily as to how much there is that I still don’t know. It can be overwhelming, it certainly is humbling, and yet it inspires me to share books and ideas and words of wise authors so that our culture might grow collectively. Which makes me inestimably and infinitely appreciative for all those who yearn for this same en masse enlightenment. 
 
Likewise, I’m so lucky to have Trudy, Elliott, Taylor, Christopher, Hannah and the others who have worked at RPB&C... for they are the ones who make RPB&C special. I would like to quickly especially thank Taylor, our son, who has stuck by me for years now. 
 
I have been blessed to share this time with him; I know that I have thankfully been given more hours with him in these past few years that I did with my aforementioned father during his entire lifetime. He may not feel the same, and this probably isn’t his future, but I’ve learned a lot about him, and being a parent, and about myself. So in a roundabout way, thank you Marilyn and Martin, and Covington, for giving me this time with my son.
 
What Michael and I both know for sure is that if you give a publisher a soapbox...he or she is going to try to build an even bigger one. So as long as I’m up here, espousing all sorts of wild ideas, I’m going to close by painting the proverbial Valhalla. Wrapped up in all these words about words, and grand intentions, and generous folks, here’s the essence of what we seek at Keen Communications and Roebling Point Books & Coffee: that every individual, regardless of race, age, gender, income, birthplace, political and religious persuasion, sexual orientation, and personal aspiration be granted a chance to succeed. And I believe that society accepts and ascends in a commensurate rising line with literacy.
 
To my dying day, I believe the human condition is improved by acknowledging that everyone with a heart has the same hopes and dreams, and that by reading and reasoning and reflecting, we will lift one another up. Our golden future lies not at the end of a yellow brick road. Instead, it’s a path paved by books, described by dreamers and those who dare, to protect and light the way for us all. 
 
And we’ll do our share by putting books in people’s hands every time we get the chance.
 
Richard Hunt is an owner of Keen Communications and founder of Roebling Point Books & Coffee, 306 Greenup Street, Covington.