Lisa Poole, owner of Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, N.C., reported that her store has been closed to the public since March 27, when Governor Roy Cooper issued a stay-at-home order for the state.
Prior to that, Quail Ridge Books had been doing curbside pickup and allowing customers in the store by appointment only. No more than four were allowed in at a time and they were told that they had to wash their hands before entering and maintain social distance while browsing. Although the appointment system worked well, Poole said, curbside pickup was not so successful, with customers tending to gather in groups at the store entrance instead of waiting in their cars. Once the order was issued, however, Poole and her team stopped curbside pickup and appointiment browsing and "went into high-gear shipping mode."
Poole said that, overall, the staff is hanging in there and helping each other out. Some are working part time from home, and there is a "solid crew working hard every day fulfilling online orders." She has several staff members over 60 or with medical conditions who have been told to not come into work. Working in an empty store and not hosting any events has been strange for everyone, Poole continued, but she is "happy they have a job to go to every day."
Poole applied for a PPP loan, but did not receive any assistance. She's hoping for better news in the next round, and in the meantime she and her team are scraping together enough to keep everyone on payroll.
Quail Ridge Books has not hosted any online events of its own, but the team has been promoting SIBA's Reader Meet Writer series. Next month Poole hopes to have her general manager speak at a virtual book club with Sue Monk Kidd.
Poole said there haven't really been any silver linings amid the pandemic, but she's proud to say that her staff is rallying, coming together and learning new skills. Her customers have also been doing good for others, including one man who ordered 50 jigsaw puzzles to distribute to his co-workers, and Poole has formed some new partnerships with other local businesses.
VaLinda Miller, owner of Turning Page Bookshop, Goose Creek, S.C., which opened last June, "knew her first year as a small business owner would be hard--but not this hard," CNN reported. Three weeks ago she was forced to close her doors after Governor McMaster issued a stay-at-home order for the state. Her business dropped by 80%, but the governor has since lifted the order, allowing "nonessential" businesses to open again.
"I think so many of us just want to go back to work," Miller said. "We've been home. We've done the best we could. But money is running out.... If it had gone one more week or just two more weeks, we really would have been in some serious trouble because my savings would have been depleted completely."
Navigating the reopening process in the time of Covid-19 will prove challenging as well. CNN reported that on her first day back in business, Miller had one customer. "I think I can weather this risk with being cautious, washing hands and wearing masks," she said.
Melissa Haffeman, owner of the Islander Bookshop, Kodiak, Alaska, noted that she would "take a cautious approach to reopening. Currently I am working with the SBA, reading through Kodiak EOC's and state guidance, and establishing a new business plan that will ensure that we are all safe as can be when the business reopens. Being in service to the community has always been paramount in the vision of the bookshop so some things need to change as town navigates the pandemic such as no more workshops, events, and gatherings at the shop for the foreseeable future.
"The good news is that I have been ordering more bookshelves and books. The spaces where people could sit and study are now being made into more bookshelves as the shop will expand the book offerings especially for kids. After a lot of careful consideration I think there is a way to turn our town's bookshop into a vibrant shop focused solely on books and local goods--with online ordering, pick up, delivery, and limited browsing hours. The soonest the doors will open is May 2, but that may fluctuate as information changes.
"Thank you to all of you who have ordered online, waited for books, for the smiles as I've seen as I delivered books to houses, for my husband who helps deliver, and for the great conversations about books I've had with folks who are looking for the next great read. Your support has enabled the shop to keep going."
Daniel Goldin, owner of Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, Wis., joined Milwaukee magazine editor and publisher Carole Nicksin for a livestream lunch on Friday to talk about how the bookstore is adapting to the Covid-19 pandemic and offer a few book recommendations.
Goldin said the store has received an influx of online orders from throughout Wisconsin and beyond, while maintaining its personal, non-automated shipping process, adding: "We're still sending personal notes with every order, sometimes we add an extra book."