SITTING BEHIND A wall of plexiglass and wearing a whimsical face mask of blue and white triangles, Pike Place Market merchant David Ghoddousi has something entertaining to say to everyone who walks into The Lion Heart bookstore. 

“Oh, you are the first customer from New York today … I’ll ring the bell!” he says as he greets a young lady.

“That’s $1,430,” he tells someone who purchased books for $14.30. “Don’t tell anyone I overcharged you. It’s my duty,” he jokes.

Ghoddousi also has adapted a poem from Shel Silverstein, one of his favorite authors, as a timely greeting that makes everyone stop and listen: “Although I cannot see your face / as you are reading these books awhile, / Somewhere from some far-off place / I hear you laughing — and I smile.”

I had heard about Ghoddousi’s wit and friendliness, but it is quite special to meet him in person. His jovial mood, given the hardship that small business owners at the market and elsewhere are experiencing in the midst of the pandemic, is truly uplifting.

“The pandemic is hurting us,” he says, “but we are trying to send a positive message that people can come to the market and enjoy it; they just have to wear a mask and social-distance.”