Elaine Petrocelli, president of Book Passage in Corte Madera and San Francisco, Calif., reported that in Marin County, curbside pick-up has not been legal for bookstores since March 16. However, that will likely change very soon according to announcements made earlier this week. Since March 16, Petrocelli and her team have been doing lots of phone and online orders.
Book Passage received a PPP loan, and Petrocelli said her local bank was wonderful to work with. The rules, though, are still unclear, and she hopes there will be some consideration for small retailers who can't bring all the staff back to work at once due to safety concerns. She added that staff members are currently "working harder than ever," and social distancing is mandatory.
On the subject of virtual events, Petrocelli said more than 14,000 people have registered for the store's Conversations with Authors series. People who register can view the conversations live at 4 p.m. Pacific time on Saturdays and Sundays, and anyone can watch the archived conversations later. The series was developed with the help of the owners of ExtendedSession, who are BookPassage customers. "We wouldn't have been able to do this without them," said Petrocelli.
Many of the store's current bestsellers were written by authors who have taken part in the Conversations with Authors series. Some standouts include The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson, A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende, Rebel Cinderella by Adam Hochschild and Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb.
One silver lining amid all this, Petrocelli continued, is how kind so many people have been. In addition to the owners of ExtendedSession helping the store create its online author series, writer Anne Lamott launched a GoFundMe campaign on behalf of the store in mid-April. So far, the campaign has raised more than $21,000 and is still bringing in contributions.
One of the nicest things that has happened, she added, was the result of an initially terrible experience. About a week after Book Passage closed for browsing, someone broke into the Corte Madera store and stole the store's four iPads and made a terrible mess. When she heard about what happened, American Dirt author Jeanine Cummins ordered four new iPads for the store and had Book Passage engraved on each one. Said Petrocelli: "So, yes, this has been a hard time, but we have learned how kind people are."
Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore, Delray Beach, Fla., will reopen to the public May 18, according to owner Joanne Sinchuk. "Following the City of Delray Beach guidelines, only 2 people at a time will be allowed in the store, so please make your appointment.... Walk-ins will be accommodated as long as no one else has an appointment. For all our safety, please wear a mask. It will be so great seeing you all again! Come by and browse the stacks of books you have been missing. Thank you for supporting our local bookstore.... Stay well, and safe. And hope to see you soon!"
Noting that Wild Geese Bookshop, Franklin, Ind., has fielded numerous calls about when it will be opening up to foot traffic, owner Tiffany Phillips responded: "The short answer is not yet. We are different than our neighbors because our footprint is so small. Being in the shop feels like a hug. There is no social distancing in here.... I've been committed to ongoing service throughout this challenging time. I know that books and cards bring a comfort. However, I'm going to continue to take every single precaution before opening up to foot traffic because our space is smaller than any other retail space around and because we have a room devoted to children. The latest news stories give me pause for those we invite to gather here.
"My business is not essential, but the people who work here are and our customers are, and the little ones who make important phone calls on the yellow phone in the kiddo room are 1,000% essential. I will continue to serve in the safest way that I can. When I feel we can do so safely, we will begin letting people walk around inside via an appointment process. I'm not there yet."
Janke Book Store, Wausau, Wis., "survived the Great Depression. Now, its family owners are navigating what may be the worst economic downturn since," WSAW News reported. Co-owners Jane Janke Johnson and Jim Janke's grandfather bought the store 100 years ago, after the influenza pandemic.
"It's very challenging thinking I might be the end of the era, of the bookstore, because small business is in huge jeopardy," said Janke Johnson. Asked if she has seen anything like this situation before, she replied, "No, but we do think back to the history of our store.... We're thinking, did our grandfather buy the bookstore at a fire sale, because the last bookseller was just too frustrated with the current events?... Instead of selling books, my grandfather rented books during the Great Depression. He could've given up as well, and he chose not to."
She added that he may be watching over them now: "My brother and I certainly have his watchful eye over us every day as we navigate this pandemic. It's really hard, because I'm really sad for our whole world. Those living on the fringe, I'm sad that they might not have food or shelter above their head.... We don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, or the next week, we don't know if the second wave is going to come back this fall. And we do know from the survey that the downtown river district did, that probably half of our small businesses are in jeopardy."