Linda McLoughlin Figel, owner of pages: a bookstore in Manhattan Beach, Calif., reported that her store is closed to the public, but she and her team do have access to the shop and are filling online and phone orders as well as providing curbside pickup and free local deliveries.
Figel and her general manager, Kristin Rasmussen, have not had to lay off anyone, and their booksellers are primarily working from home, with no more than two staff members allowed in the store at a time. She said she and Rasmussen have been "blown away by the dedication and support" they've received from their staff, and noted that in their spare time booksellers are doing things like recording book review videos. Figel added: "We miss each other as much as we miss interacting with our incredibly loyal and supportive customers."
When asked about the PPP and other relief programs, Figel said they've been difficult for her to access and in many cases now appear to be dried up. She has, however, been able to work with the store's landlord to achieve short-term rent relief in the form of deferred rent. The silver lining, she continued, is that she and her landlord took the opportunity to renew the store's lease now, which otherwise would have expired in 2021.
On the subject of virtual author events, Figel said she and her staff haven't run any yet, but later this month will start with several virtual book launches.
|Books by the Bay owner Cheryl Popp with store manager Jeff Battis.
In the six months since opening Sausalito Books by the Bay in Sausalito, Calif., store owner Cheryl Popp has experienced disruptions caused by massive wildfires last October and now the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Popp reported that following the fires, business was off to a robust start, until she had to close her doors to the public.
She and store manager Jeff Battis are keeping afloat by taking orders over the phone and via e-mail, delivering to local doorsteps, offering curbside pickup and shipping for free anywhere in the U.S. Most of her staff, she continued, have opted to shelter-in-place, while a few have essentially volunteered to work alone in the bookshop for a few hours each day processing orders, with salaries deferred until a later date.
She said the store is "doing a lively business" in jigsaw puzzles and other gift items, and her Community Supported Bookstore membership program has also helped. The Books by the Bay team has had to pivot to doing more virtual, online communications, and Popp is now sending out a bi-weekly electronic newsletter.
Popp added that while she's always been fond of handselling books, she is now a "full-time personal shopper and delivery service," and on any given day she "feels like FedEx." And though that wasn't exactly what she signed up for, she said she's "still dedicated to keeping a locally owned and operated independent bookstore alive and well here in Sausalito."
|Curbside pickup orders at Writer's Block.
At Writer's Block bookstore, Las Vegas, Nev., "boxes and book-packing assembly lines have replaced the scene of customers leisurely browsing through shelves stacked with carefully curated literary works," the Nevada Independent reported. Co-owner Drew Cohen said the store shifted to only online orders after "a few awkward days" of watching customers wander through "touching everything in sight." Since then, the store has gone from receiving one or two website orders a week to 20-40 orders per day.
"I'm glad that people are using the online service, but it's been a total transformation of how we do business and kind of a baptism by fire where we've had to develop systems for order fulfillment overnight," Cohen said. "Before, we would just get one order here or there and could take our time packing it and bringing it into the post office."
Writer's Block has suspended the young writer's workshops and book club meetings it regularly hosts, and Cohen is unsure whether he will move that programming online: "Each of our transactions takes so much longer to process.... I have less time now than I did before we opened, so I've been too exhausted to even think about or do some of that programming."
Although the bookshop can continue to fill orders and the landlord is working with the store on rent payments, Cohen said he is nervous about the long term health of the business: "We are still paying our employees while we're closed right now, and it is eating through our savings. We went into this in a sort of healthy position, and this crisis has removed a lot of that buffer. And then of course, we still don't know how long it's going to last for....
"I'm grateful that we have these web orders because it's allowed me to not have to think about too far into the future when I'm just packing up a book and creating the postage for it. And when I'm not on the clock, I am trying not to consume too much media that is about the virus."
"Imagine that Avid is at one end of a rainbow and your books, safely nestled in your mailbox or on your front stoop, are the pot of gold at the end," Avid Bookshop, Athens, Ga., posted on Facebook. "We love doodling on your packages--it's important to engage in creative pursuits each day, and that includes busting out some markers and drawing for you. It puts a smile on the booksellers' faces (and the postal workers'!), and from the myriad #avidsnailmail posts you've been sharing on social media, we know they make you happy, too. Thanks for hanging in there with us. We truly believe books will help us stay both more centered and more connected in these trying times."