Bill Clinton's visit to in Darien on Friday afternoon was a great boost for the bookstore, a great event for the town (according to the first selectman), apparently wonderful experience for the 500 or so who were grinning after Clinton signed his new book for them—and, Bill Clinton said, enjoyable for him, too.
Customers he met at Barrett, he said at the end of his visit, "had the best stories" of any of the book-signing events he'd previously appeared at, he said. He particularly enjoyed meeting an Italian immigrant who said he'd met Clinton's father, who was stationed in Italy in World War II, as well as two natives of Haiti.
For Sheila Daley, owner of the store, Barretts had experienced "nothing like this—nothing that could even come close since my husband and I bought the store about 14 years ago."
"Peach [Kraft] and Rosanna Nissen were here until 9 last night," Daley said. "They [Clinton's crew from Random House] had a crew of fellas who came in and moved things around. They were very specific in what they wanted."
The store's shelves were moved so that those waiting in line went through a single, snaking aisle something like the one at the Stew Leonard's store in Norwalk, until they met Bill Clinton, who typically had a short, pleasant conversation with each person.
Everyone needed to have a voucher, however—one that cost the price of "Back to Work," Clinton's $23.95 book. Numerous people walked up to the front door, only to be turned away because they didn't have one of the 500 vouchers.
Before entering the store, customers were told that once inside they should take their coats off, have on a blue wristband provided by Barrett (and cut off by a store employee as they left), take no pictures and bring in no personal items to be signed. Clinton would only sign his book, they were told.
"It's exciting for Darien for them to have chosen a local merchant," First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said. "Everybody seems pleased to have met him." Stevenson herself was able to meet Clinton at the tail end of the book signings.
Former Selectman Evonne Klein got a book signed by Clinton after waiting an hour in line, and she chatted with him briefly. "I said I was happy he was here in Darien, he said he was happy to be here, and I thanked him for all the good he has done, and all the good work he continues to do."
Customers formed a long line that stretched from the front door of Barretts back around Tasti-D-Lite and then around the corner of the building all the way to the next corner.
Among those standing in line were Marianne Cirillo and her friend Molly Massie, both of Darien.
"We were talking among ourselves, saying, 'When will we ever have the opportunity to do this again,'" Massie said. Cirillo added that, despite being a Republican, she had a lot of respect for Bill Clinton as someone who could reach across the aisle to compromise. She also was impressed by his philanthropic activity after his presidency, she said.
Clinton's post-presidential career also impressed Becky Munro, who was able to get vouchers for her son, Rob, and daughter, Katrina, both in their 20s.
Becky Munro said that although she wasn't a supporter of Clinton when he was in office, she was impressed by his post-presidential charitable activities in places like New Orleans and Africa. Rob said he thought it was inspiring to meet charismatic leaders
Marianne Reifenheiser, waiting in line with three friends, said she wanted to see Clinton because "He's an icon. I'd like to see what he looks like." Susan Edwards, standing with her, said she was impressed by Clinton. "I wish Obama had some of his charm," she said.
Customers leaving the store with their signed books were typically grinning from ear to ear. One man said he was pleased to meet Clinton, and he admired the former president's work in the years after his presidency. This customer wouldn't give his name, though: "My wife can't know I was here. This [book] is her Christmas present."
The parking lot in front of Barretts was nearly full, but there were always some spaces for customers of other businesses. posted a "Bill Clinton Lunch Special" ("Two slices and soda: $4.99"), and it passed out free pizza samples to the lunchtime crowd, as did .
Phil Santomassi, the owner of , said Clinton hadn't ordered any food from his place, although he'd sent a menu over to the book store. Some Secret Service agents had lunch in his eatery the day before, he said.
He was glad Clinton had come over to support the book store, he said. "This is good for Barrett," he said.
A little after 2 p.m., the last of the vouchers had been handed in. Clinton signed some other books, and some town police officials had their pictures taken with him. He chatted with various book store employees and had a group picture taken with them just after 2:30 p.m.
Then it was , where he now lives, for another 500 book signings, scheduled to start at 3:15 p.m.