Laura Cummings, owner of White Birch Books in North Conway, N.H., reported that both Maine and New Hampshire are under stay-at-home orders. She lives in the former but works in the latter, and under the New Hampshire order, her business is classified as non-essential. She is, however, allowed access to the store and is able to do curbside pickup, along with direct-to-home orders.
Cummings said customers have been very good about it, and she's done several personal shopping moments. Just this week, she picked out an entire box of baby shower gifts, including board books, gift wrap, a card and a stuffed animal, that will be mailed with a note saying it shouldn't be opened until a specific time and date. Cummings added: "People are being very creative and we are, too."
She has put a stop to all incoming orders, so the store's new book inventory is a bit depleted. But customers have been patient and seem happy to wait for orders to come in. Shipments have slowed down a bit, too, and while that has caused some frustration, most people are being very understanding.
All that being said, Cummings noted, sales are down dramatically. There's only so much that can be done with the store closed to browsing, and she had to lay off all of her staff when she closed the doors. Most of those staff members were part time, and she has been checking in with them regularly. Two of her teenaged staff members are doing remote schooling.
Cummings's one full-timer applied for unemployment as soon as she was laid off, but has not seen a single check in three weeks despite already being approved. Cummings hopes to hire that staff member back on a part-time basis soon, and explained that even with the storefront closed, there is too much work for a single person to handle.
Cummings said she has applied for a federal disaster grant but has heard nothing. She'll be applying for the paycheck protection program as well, and should she get any grants or loans, she plans to start hiring back her staff.
|Online orders at City of Asylum
In Pittsburgh, Pa., City of Asylum Books has been closed for browsing since right around St. Patrick's Day, reported manager Lesley Rains. Shortly after the store made that decision, a stay-at-home order was issued for the entire county. Rains is able to access the store even under the order, and while she's done some curbside pickups, she's mostly been pointing customers toward online sales and is offering free shipping.
Rains said it has been "really remarkable" and "really emotional" to see how people are supporting the bookstore. Rains comes in every day and is busy all day with the volume of orders, and customers are including really nice notes mentioning their desire to support the store and make sure "it's here when this is over."
Rains said the staff is all working from home and pitching in when there's work to be done. They are becoming jacks-of-all-trades, and she noted that one of her co-workers, who is officially an assistant bookkeeper, recentyl helped her pack online orders.
She added that if there is a silver lining to this, it's how kind and supportive customers have been. Books are taking a little longer to arrive in store, but shoppers are very understanding and saying there's no rush.
On Facebook, the store posted: "Friends, we miss you! We're using this time to give our home a much-needed and thorough deep clean. Trim is being painted, floors polished, rugs and cushions washed. We can't wait to have you back. In the meantime, stay safe, stay home."
In Houston, Tex., Brazos Bookstore is currently under a stay-at-home order. General manager Ülrika Moats reported that she and the store's operations manager are able to access the store, and they've been busy processing and shipping online orders. Prior to the stay-at-home order, the store was doing curbside pickup, but since then Moats and her team have been doing only online orders.
Moats said that so far the staff is safe and faring well. All of the booksellers are still getting paid, and those who can work from home are doing so. Every Sunday Moats and the team make time for a Zoom call so they can chat and see each other in order to stay connected. Moats added that the store's ownership board is working on a Paycheck Protection Program loan.
Becky Dayton, owner of The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury, Vt., is no longer accepting any shipments until further notice. Aside from an occasional Ingram wholesale order here and there, she said, she will not be accepting backorders, frontlist or anything else, and she is no longer actively working on Fall frontlist orders through Edelweiss.
In the weeks since Vermont issued a stay-at-home order, Dayton has been unable to have any of her employees join her at the store, and she has been unable to process all of the online orders on her own. As such she is driving as much business as possible to the store's Bookshop page while selling what remains of the in-store inventory via curbside pickup and local delivery. She is limiting her days of operation to Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and she has tried to secure a PPP loan so she can pay her booksellers for a few weeks.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, Dayton explained, the store was suffering significantly due to a massive, multi-year construction project going on in Middlebury. Prior to the pandemic, it was supposed to be done sometime over the summer. Now it looks like it will stretch into the early fall at least. At the same time, Middlebury College has been emptied of students for the rest of the academic year and it is unclear what will happen for the fall semester. Said Dayton: "When VBS opens its doors again, I expect what is inside to be significantly different than it has been."
"It's a family affair here at the bookshop these days," the Yankee Bookshop, Woodstock, Vt., posted on Facebook. "Long hours getting all of your orders together have moved us to bring in Apollo & Grimm for some extra paws on deck. Thank you to everyone, for your orders, for your patience, for your kind words & messages of support, and for waving through the window when you pass by on your walk. It's so good to see your faces, even if it's through the glass! We're glad we can continue to bring you comfort, escape, information, distraction, whatever you can find in the pages of a book. (Or the pieces of a puzzle, right?)"