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CORINA BOHNER

THE LISTENER

The head of operations at ’Hokus-Pokus’, the local stationary store, has an eye for what might be missing on the shelves, and an ear for the needs of her fellow human beings.

Corina Bohner-Röder is in her 28th year of business. Her store is where you go for a last minute birthday card, a book order, and the odd school item that can't be bought online or found at the Müller drugstore chain, well "at least not at this super price!" But above all she’s the one who listens, and not just for the time it takes to check out someone’s weekly sudoku book. "Whether I want to or not, I get everything," the 57-year-old owner of the stationery and so-much-more store in the center of Tambach-Dietharz' tells us with an inviting smile on her lips. "In the big stores or supermarkets, there's no hello and goodbye anymore; with me, it's the little things that matter," says the person who actually never saw herself standing behind a counter. "I was such a shy kid, I never thought I'd get into chatting like this. But that came with time and with people."

In the big stores or supermarkets, there’s no hello and goodbye anymore; with me, it’s the little things that matter

Her little store is located between the ice cream parlor and the senior citizens' home. It supplies the people of Tambach-Dietharz with the tools to keep life organized and make everything just a little more beautiful. "I'm what you probably call a loser of the German reunification," Corina Bohner-Röder recalls over two phone calls, answering with the kind of devotion that you can’t help but reciprocate. "First, I learned professional window dressing - my dream job. There wasn't much material around and we had to make something out of nothing, so I did a lot of tinkering. My parents were both in retail," she continues, pointing through the large storefront window up Main Street toward the church where the former department store stands. The multi-story building is now operated as a boarding house and pet and outdoor supply store - times are changing. "Back then we were an all-female business and back then we went to the villages to design the store windows" Bohner-Röder recalls, her eyes twinkling. "Then came the fall of the wall and lots of big changes. The young people were kicked out and the old people closed the door, and we had to ask ourselves: what do we have, and what can we do with it?"

The answer was as obvious as it was absurd: namely, we had a garage that, with a bit of overhaul, we thought could make a good store. "Then I spun this idea with my mother," Bohner-Röder says, first with a grin and then shaking her head. "My father was against it at first, but later worked in the store himself." Later, that is, after having been lured by the initial subsidies and loans of the reunification and then spending years working in construction, laying floors and doing electrical work. In the summer of 1993, "full of confidence," she opened her little box of wonders called "Hokus-Pokus." The name still says it all today. "When it comes to re-stocking the goods, I still imagine a magic hat and ask myself, what could I pull out of it this time?" And there's something else that reminds her to this day of the imagination it took to put her plan into action: "Look back there, the ceiling slopes, like a garage. When tall people come into the store, it's always pretty funny."

There wasn’t much material around and we had to make something out of nothing, so I did a lot of tinkering.

But even though Bohner-Röder describes herself as a person "who always has a joke in store," it was far from fun to struggle as a lone wolf in town. "The euro really tore me down back then. Of course, a currency shift like that causes uncertainty on all sides, plus big markets sprang up in the surrounding towns," Bohner-Röder recalls. "And even though I run the only stationery store in Tambach, people have a tendency to always shop on the Net or elsewhere first before going to the local store. I'm the place to go if they find they can't get what they're looking for there - I know where the gaps are, I keep an eye on market developments." By that, Bohner-Röder isn’t just referring to the gaps in the magazine landscape, but also in the local ones. Because her store is in such a central location, she is usually the first point of contact for tourists. "I have the flyers here, I know the trails, the destinations, and of course I'm happy to give people information," says the dog owner, who after years of always being there has scaled back her opening hours to have a bit more time to enjoy the forest just outside her doorstep and to take care of some other things. "People know when they can reach me." But she does wonder "why the city info is so hard to find and the building at the central church square is empty. It would provide the ideal space for a place to meet and exchange information. That's what I would like to see for our city." Until that happens, the native of Tambach-Dietharz answers all the questions  that come her way during the day, and looks forward to the silence after work: "There I don't have to talk, then it's just quiet time and I can devote myself to listening to music. Because without music, life for me just won’t do.”

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