Despite many restrictions being lifted in the state of Arizona, Changing Hands Bookstores in Phoenix and Tempe, Ariz., remain closed, said CEO and co-owner Cindy Dach. Dach explained that she and her team feel that there is simply not enough information about how the novel coronavirus spreads, and they will not reopen to browsing until they can ensure that their staff and customers will be safe.
Dach said she doesn't have an idea yet of when the store might reopen. The governor lifted the state's stay-at-home order on Friday, and businesses like gyms, spas and dine-in restaurants are now able to reopen. She plans to wait and see if this results in a spike of cases and how well the city handles it. She added: "What happens in our cities will provide us a road map for reopening our space to the public."
When the store does eventually reopen, Dach and her team will make a variety of changes to the store. Dach has already ordered Plexiglas shields for the cash wraps, and they'll move benches out of the aisles so there's more room to browse safely and reduce seating throughout the store. Given the success of the store's care packages, Changing Hands is adding care package-making stations and putting in a few more desks for online order processing.
The community has been "incredibly supportive" so far of the bookstore's decision to remain closed. When the store posted about not opening yet, there was a great response online. While many customers have asked about starting an appointment system, Dach noted that in general her customers seem as concerned as she is about potentially lifting restrictions too soon.
Dach said the staff has been amazing. They've weathered all the ups and downs of the past few months and "coming up with really creative ideas to support the bookstore." They are adapting as best they can to the new reality, and although they miss having customers in store, "they also love the ability to wear what they want and blast dance music in the stores while we work."
In Omaha, Neb., The Bookworm has never had to close its doors to customers completely, but co-owners Phillip and Beth Black have followed local restrictions limiting the store to having no more than 10 customers in at a time. They and their staff members spend a lot more time cleaning, and they've closed the middle of the store's three cash registers to allow for greater distancing. There is signage on the floors, counters and doors reminding people to follow social distancing rules and to illustrate how far apart they should be standing, and some chairs, tables and other furniture have been moved to make more space.
For those who feel uncomfortable going in to browse or are unable to for health reasons, the store has added curbside pick-up and free delivery within the nearest six ZIP codes. Telephone and online orders have increased substantially, Black reported, as has the amount of books being shipped to customers. The Bookworm team has also done a fair amount of personal shopping for telephone customers, everything from books to sidelines and greeting cards.
Black said the staff is holding up well, but "like everyone else we are all ready for things to return to something resembling normal, whatever that may be." Several staff members who are considered more vulnerable to Covid-19 are staying home until things are safer. The store has not had to make any involuntary staff reductions, so pay has continued at normal levels.
Phillip and Beth Black applied for and received a PPP loan. They worked with their local bank and everything went smoothly, Black said, even allowing for the fact "that the SBA seemed to be writing the rules as it went along."
Black said that many of the store's reading groups have been doing Zoom sessions instead of meeting in person. The store also held a quarantine puzzle exchange, where customers could bring in their gently used jigsaw puzzles for other customers to take, so long as they made a donation to the Food Bank. Hundreds of puzzles were exchanged, Black said, and the store raised $3,875 for the Food Bank.
Bright Side Bookshop in Flagstaff, Ariz., reopened to browsing today after being closed to customers since March 17. Co-owner Lisa Lamberson said the store will be open to browsing only for limited hours and she'll restrict the number of customers that can be in the store at any one time.
After closing in March, Lamberson and her team started doing curbside pick-up on March 20, and added a new IndieLite website on April 1. Since then, the store has been offering direct-to-home shipping in addition to pick-up. On March 22, after it became clear that the store wouldn't be able to reopen to customers for quite some time, Lamberson had to let everyone go except the store's general manager. In recent weeks, Lamberson has rehired a few staff members to help with reopening as well as curbside pick-up and shipping.
Lamberson received a PPP loan on April 16, and reported that while the process was a bit stressful, it helped to have a strong relationship with her local bank. The store has not been doing any virtual events, and Lamberson said she thinks those will be the last things to make a return, as they don't currently have a marketing manager or an events coordinator.