By Ryan Cornell
WINCHESTER -- His days are numbered. Literally.
At Hussein Rashwan's calendar kiosk in the Apple Blossom Mall, Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber exchange furtive glances with the Game of Thrones cast. Joe Flacco and RGIII drop back in the pocket facing lines of terriers and retrievers. Bikini-clad centerfolds pose across from racks of shiny sports cars and sun-soaked beaches.
Rashwan, 41, sells them all -- well, at least the calendars anyway -- and couldn't imagine working anywhere else. After four years of manning the same stand, he said he's able to recognize the regulars who return every winter.
"I know what they want because I sell the same product every year," he said. "Calendars are personal. If you have, say a dog like a Chihuahua, you can't tell the customer, 'Hey, I'm gonna give you a German Shepherd.' You look for something specific."
He said his calendars of dogs, landscapes, football and the Civil War, which adorns a wall at his home, sell consistently well and added that two calendars popular this year are those promoting "The Walking Dead" and "Duck Dynasty."
Because calendars are a seasonal business, his kiosk sits in the mall from October to mid-January. He said the 2014 calendars that aren't sold by the end of the season are donated to Winchester schools as part of an agreement. This year has proven to be a tough season, he said.
"Last year, we had 32 days if you count from Black Friday to Christmas Eve" he said. "Because Thanksgiving came late this season, that's 26 days, and cut from that the three snow days that killed business around here. But in the end, it's good business and we still have a couple weeks to go."
Rashwan started out in the mall managing a sunglass cart in 2008. That next year, he opened his own business selling Christmas ornaments at Harrisonburg's Valley Mall. He returned to the Apple Blossom Mall in 2010 to sell calendars and now manages four employees.
Although electronic calendar apps seem to have replaced the traditional paper version in some homes, he said he doesn't see them going obsolete.
"I don't think the cell phone is affecting our business because these type of classic calendars, our customers are asking for it and paying for it," he said. "With the technology, I don't think customers will enjoy and want to look at the pictures on their cell phones."
Located directly outside f.y.e., Rashwan's stand, Go! Calendars, also sells puzzles and board games and is offering a 50-percent discount on calendars through January.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org