On Bainbridge Island, Wash., Eagle Harbor Book Co. reopened for browsing on June 1, reported store owner Jane Danielson. All staff members are wearing masks and all customers over the age of five must wear masks. The store provides disposable masks to customers who don't have their own, and hand sanitizer is available at both store entrances and at all POS areas.
Danielson said the store is also providing disposable gloves for customers who want to handle books when they shop. For those who decide not to put on gloves, Danielson and her team ask that they put any handled books on a "quarantine cart." Those books are then quarantined off of the sales floor for a minimum of three days before being re-shelved. The staff routinely performs customer counts to make sure the store is no higher than 25% capacity. She added that so far, they have not had to keep anyone out because of capacity.
There are plexiglass dividers at all sales counters, Danielson continued, and plenty of signage illustrating proper spacing. Booksellers are required to take their temperature on arrival each day, and mark a log sheet showing that they took their temperature, what the temperature was, and whether they have any unusual symptoms. Staff also have to follow strict handwashing and cleaning schedules, and the bathroom has been closed to customers (which Danielson noted has not been a popular decision).
To make sure booksellers can work safely, they are on staggered schedules and the store has closed two sales stations at the front of the store. Other operations have also been spaced out. Things that used to be done behind the sales counter, such as answering the phone and e-mailing customers, are now done elsewhere in the store to reduce crowding. Whenever possible, staff can work from home, especially on marketing and community outreach projects. And with all author events canceled for the year, the store's events team is now focused on community outreach.
Danielson said customers are generally compliant with the store's social-distancing measures. Washington's governor recently issued a mask-wearing mandate, which has made enforcing the store's restrictions easier. And while they have had to remind some shoppers to put on masks, so far no one has refused to wear one.
On the subject of the protests against systemic racism and police brutality that began in late May, Danielson said her town had two marches in early June. The store is supportive of the movement and many booksellers have taken part in protests. In response to the protest movement, the store also revised its summer reading program to focus on increasing reading diversity for both kids and adults. For each summer reading form that is submitted, the store will be donating $5 to a local nonprofit fighting for racial equality, and there are displays of #ownvoices titles that have proven very popular.
Only one customer, Danielson added, has complained about the store's support of Black Lives Matter, saying that she would not shop in the store as long as they continued to display a Black Lives Matter sign. Otherwise, she said, there has been no negative feedback to the store's decision to speak out.
All told, the store's sales numbers are down significantly over last year's numbers. At this time of year, Danielson noted, there would normally be plenty of tourists visiting Bainbridge Island, but there are far fewer customers in store.
Cindy Dach, co-owner of Changing Hands Bookstores in Tempe and Phoenix, Ariz., reported that the stores reopened on June 23. Both stores are operating on limited hours based on staff availability, and they've created a new role that Dach called the "door greeter." It's the door greeter, Dach explained, who makes sure guests are wearing masks and sanitizing their hands when they enter.
Hand sanitizer is available at the door and throughout the store, and plexiglass barriers have been installed around the registers and information counters. All staff members, whether working on the floor or in the offices, have to wear masks, and all guests are required to wear them as well. For those unable to wear masks, curbside pick-up is still available. Store capacity has been reduced and, to create more browsing space, some fixtures have been moved and some displays taken down. There are signs throughout the stores, Dach added, that read "Kindness = 6 feet of social distancing."
For the most part, Dach continued, the community is on board with wearing masks and following social distancing guidelines. The mayors of Tempe and Phoenix have mandated masks, and that helps a great deal. Still, Changing Hands has had to put up signage about how to wear masks properly.
When it comes to the nightly protests in Phoenix, Dach said her stores are not in the "footprint of the protest," but there are lots of community businesses that are and many community members are participating. Dach added that Changing Hands has given financial support to certain organizations, used the store's social media platform to show support and is working on a One Book Phoenix Antiracist reading program.