By Paul Augeri, Editor-In-Chief
The glow from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s imminent visit to Wesleyan R. J. Julia Bookstore to sign copies of her new book will likely last long after she leaves the city.
With a Secret Service detail in tow, Clinton will spend a few hours on Saturday inside the Middletown shop to sign “What Happened”, her much-discussed new book about the 2016 election. A couple of hundred tickets for the signing sold out in a matter of hours in August.
If Clinton were turning out at R. J. Julia’s flagship store in Madison, her appearance would be another big get for the brand. But her commitment to a Middletown/Wesleyan visit is a signature moment for the five-months-old store.
In time, it has the potential to be a future point of reference for the authors, politicians, journalists and others that Wesleyan R. J. Julia asks to follow Clinton.
“We are obviously excited and thrilled about having Hillary Clinton in to sign. We love getting all types of writers, from the debut author up through celebrities,” Lori Fazio, chief operating officer for R. J. Julia Booksellers, told the Mirror.
“This is the first real big event that we are bringing to R. J. Julia in Middletown. We get to introduce the sort of caliber of store we are. We get to introduce Wesleyan to the publishing world and we get to introduce Middletown” to ticket holders either visiting the store for the first time or unfamiliar with Main Street’s nostalgic appeal.
The planning for Clinton’s visit has been a production not just for the store itself.
“For an event like this, it definitely takes a village,” said Fazio, borrowing the first half of the title of Clinton’s book published in 1996 while she was First Lady. “We have been quite fortunate that her team is really wonderful to work with, her publishing team is really wonderful to work with, and that Wesleyan, Middletown and the Middletown Police Department have been wonderful to work with.”
“This is the first real big event that we are bringing to R. J. Julia in Middletown. We get to introduce the sort of caliber of store we are.” — Lori Fazio, COO for R. J. Julia Booksellers
Fazio was quick to add that nearby businesses of the store at 413 Main “have made it easy to work with them” in preparation for Clinton’s visit and the security detail supporting her.
“The Secret Service has a certain standard that needs to be followed,” she said. “We appreciate everybody’s patience and understanding and the commitment to making this all happen. We know it’s not easy on everybody.”
The line for ticket holders, who are assigned a number, will form in front of the store long before the start of the 11 a.m. signing. The area will be heavily secured. Streets will remain open as will the rest of Main Street’s businesses, Fazio said.
Patrons who turn out just to shop in the store will be required to stand on line with others, Fazio said. “We’ll almost essentially be closed to non-ticket holders,” she said.
One of ticket holders is Maureen O’Doherty of Portland, who said she’s been practicing for weeks about what she will say to Clinton during their encounter. She expects it to be a “five-second window” of time with the former First Lady/Secretary of State/Democratic presidential nominee.
“I’ve settled on a variation of, ‘Madame Secretary, I’m also a graduate of an all women’s college [St. Joseph, now University of St. Joseph in West Hartford]. Thank you for your decades of devotion to the rights of women and girls.’ Then I burst into tears and blubber all over my signed copies of her autobiography and the children’s edition of It Takes a Village I’m getting for the neighbors.
“I’ve watched this woman fight my fight for 25 years when I felt I didn’t have the voice — like many women I know. For her to come back after November 2016 is astonishing to me. I do know she’s not finished yet — and the girls of this world will be better for her good works.”
O’Doherty threw in a shout-out to the store. “Terrific coup for R. J. Julia. It is a beautiful space and the staff is terrific.”
Expect Clinton to walk gingerly through the store’s doors on Saturday. She broke her toe running down a flight of stairs this month and recently has been photographed on the talk circuit in a walking boot. The revelation caused maybe a minute or two of angst for Fazio and bookstore staff.
“Her team told us right away, ‘She broke her toe this morning but we are proceeding to Middletown as we planned,’ ” Fazio said.