In announcing the launch of the Bookends & Beginnings COVID-19 GoFundMe campaign
, Nina Barrett, owner of the Evanston, Ill., store, began with "some dark humor from the bookstore industry:
Q: Know how you can make a small fortune selling books?
A: Start with a large fortune.
"Just to unpack the punch line," she continued. "Even though most bookstores aren't legally non-profit entities, making a 'profit' in this field is defined as not actually losing money while you are sustaining day-to-day operations.
"I am so, so proud to tell you that, since we opened in the heart of Evanston nearly six years ago, Bookends & Beginnings has operated in the black. In fact, the growing love and support for us in our community has enabled us to grow along with it. Maybe we made you a book recommendation that brightened your life or the life of someone you gave it to. Maybe we donated a gift certificate to your school's or your organization's silent auction fundraiser (we have donated gift certificates to many, many fundraisers!), or hosted an event or a fundraiser for you in the store. Maybe you got a chance to meet a favorite author, or celebrate the publication of your book or a friend's book at one of our author events. Maybe you watched your child or someone else's straddle the back of one of our beloved sheep and get lost in a story.
"We look forward to doing all these things with and for you again when the COVID-19 crisis passes. But right now we face the challenge posed to so many small retailers: without walk-in business, we simply cannot make enough money to pay our bills, especially if the store remains shuttered--as now seems likely--for weeks if not months....
"Launching a crowd-funding campaign is not something we like to be doing--especially at a time when we know so many people are anxious and trying to deal with the impact of this crisis on their own lives. But we need your donation now to ensure our survival in these uncertain times."
In a heartfelt gesture, the store is donating 10% of the proceeds of its GoFundMe campaign to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc). Good news so far: launched on Sunday, the campaign has already raised $18,000 toward its goal of $100,000.
In Albuquerque, N.Mex., Bookworks closed to browsing on Sunday, March 15, which was the last time that employees or customers were in store. For another week after that, co-owners Danielle Foster and Wyatt Wegrzyn handled curbside pickup at the store, with customers pre-purchasing books online or over the phone and then calling when they arrived. But even wearing gloves and keeping distance, Foster and Wergrzyn felt the risk was still too high for both themselves and their customers. They ended up stopping that as well, one day before New Mexico's governor issued a stay at home order, and since then they've been doing direct-to-home delivery through their website.
Amanda Sutton, the store's marketing and events coordinator, reported that staff members are healthy and at home, though they are still doing things like posting book reviews and doing challenges together on social media. Wergrzyn and Foster are giving them frequent updates and trying to be as transparent as possible amid so many changing circumstances.
Online sales and web traffic, meanwhile, have increased exponentially, and Bookworks has been adding new category pages to its website. Sutton said the team has been so focused on driving web sales through online promotions they have not had time to try out things like virtual author events and live-streamed storytime sessions just yet, but they hope to start in the near future.
|Bear Pond Books can no longer do curbside pickup.
Claire Benedict, co-owner of Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vt., reported that her store has been closed for browsing for around 10 days. Until last Thursday, she and her co-owner were able to do curbside pick up, but a statewide order put an end to that. Since that time, they've been trying to make do with website sales.
Almost all of the store's staff is on temporary leave, with the state directive allowing only owners to enter a workplace. Benedict and her partner are in store filling orders while one employee is processing website orders from home. Benedict said that sales have been impacted but people are ordering books and keeping the store going. They've gotten a lot of community support, and pickup was very popular with customers when they were still allowed to do it.
Bear Pond Books has yet to try any virtual events, with Benedict saying they simply haven't had the time. She added: "Transitioning our entire business model every few days with limited staffing has been keeping us busy."
|Orders on the way from Books Are Magic.
"We've transformed the store into a distribution center," Michael Fusco-Straub, co-owner of Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, N.Y., told Slate. "Almost like we had to switch the kind of business we are in 24 hours." After the store closed to browsing on March 16, the staff turned it "upside down," creating stacks of books to be able to access them as quickly as possible to fulfill online orders. "My fingers hurt from tapping in manually... all the credit card stuff."
For Annie Philbrick, owner of Bank Square Books, Mystic, Conn., and the Savoy Bookshop, Westerly, R.I., the "coronavirus shutdown is like no other she's faced, even the one in 2012, when her Mystic store flooded during Hurricane Sandy, Slate noted. "The tide came in and the tide went out. I saw an end to that," she recalled, adding that she knew roughly about how long it would take to move all the books out, rip out the floors and repaint the walls and reopen her doors. But now, "the future is so uncertain, we don't know how long this is going to go on. The tide hasn't gone out yet."
From RoscoeBooks, Chicago, Ill.: "Hello friends! We hope you're all staying safe and healthy, and finding time to read. We are so grateful for the support the last two weeks. We cannot thank you enough. We have finally caught up a bit and we wanted to let you know we are definitely still taking web orders (www.roscoebooks.com) and offering $1 shipping. So stock up! And if you need some recommendations, swing by our Twitter feed (@roscoebooks) for our running list of our favorite 'comfort reads' all this week. Thank you, and be well!"