Nicole Sullivan, owner of BookBar in Denver, Colo., reported that her store has been doing curbside pick-up for online orders since mid-May and last month added to-go service for bar and food items. Sullivan explained that she and the BookBar team reduced the amount of food items on the menu but have expanded the cocktail list. She noted that the store has a "big accordion window" at the front, which lends itself well to doing pick-up and to-go orders.
At the same time, Sullivan and her team have started reducing BookBar's in-store book inventory. This past week they held a large book sale on the store's patio, with BookBar VIP members and teachers receiving 50% off. This week they'll open up the sale to the rest of the community as they reopen the patio for eating, drinking and shopping. The patio, she added, has been reconfigured to allow for social distancing.
Sullivan has no plans to reopen the interior of the store in the immediate future. She anticipates another shutdown in the fall, and said it "just feels too risky when we have great alternatives, such as our patio and our to-go window."
|BookBar's patio book sale.
Once the patio reopens, Sullivan added, masks will be mandatory. While she has not experienced it herself, some nearby businesses have complained about customers pushing back against wearing facemasks. A few weeks ago, however, Colorado's governor issued a mask-wearing mandate and that has helped with general adherence.
On the subject of the protests against police brutality and systemic racism that began in late May, Sullivan said her neighborhood was the site of a peaceful Black Lives Matter march that passed right by the store. BookBar participated, as did some local politicians and district police. The store donated 10% of all its sales during the first week of June to Navajo Nation Covid-19 relief, and 10% of its sales during the second week of June to Black Lives Matter.
Around the same time, BookGive (BookBar's non-profit wing) hosted an antiracist book giveaway at BookBar. Sullivan reported that they gave away around 200 copies of titles like The Hate U Give, The New Jim Crow, So You Want to Talk About Race and Stamped from the Beginning. BookGive is also providing complimentary books for attendees of its Well-Read Black Girl book club, in the hopes of making these books as accessible as possible.
Generally speaking, Sullivan continued, BookBar's business model is moving toward greater integration with BookGive. As of June 15, the store is donating 10% of all book sales to BookGive in order to get more books into the community, and over the last few months BookGive has donated nearly 10,000 books to various nonprofits in the metro Denver area. Bookbar is transitioning its bed & breakfast space to a Writers-in-Residence Program in partnership with a local writers' organization and also starting a publishing program.
"So we are becoming much more of a community service-based organization with less of a focus and reliance on retail," said Sullivan.
In Indianapolis, Ind., Kids Ink Children's Bookstore closed to browsing in March and reopened to walk-ins on June 11 at 50% capacity, said owner Shirley Mullin. From mid-March until June 11, Mullin continued, the store was "pleasantly busy" with website, phone and, surprisingly, social media orders. The store signed up for Libro.fm as well as Bookshop, and put its spring bookfairs on the latter platform.
In late April one of Mullin's booksellers loaded the store's front windows with a variety of books, toys and puzzles and invited customers, via the store's social media accounts, to come and browse the front windows. The idea was a success, and people were outside off and on throughout the day pointing at things they wanted. During that period, all transactions were done over the phone, and the store also offered curbside pick-up and deliveries within 10 miles.
Mullin and her team rearranged the store before reopening for browsing. By removing some displays, they've created two wide aisles that allow for social distancing, and they rearranged some of the bookcases near the cash wrap to create some barriers between customers and staff. They've also removed a Brio train table, which Mullin said they hated to do but ultimately deemed necessary. One interesting change in shopping behavior, she noted, is that customers seem much more focused when browsing and are generally buying more per visit.
Indiana finally issued a mask-wearing mandate last week, but masks have been mandatory since the store reopened. Mullin said they've only had one "tussle" to date, with a woman who stormed out after refusing to put on a mask that was given to her for free. "It worries me daily that one of my staff will get the virus," Mullin said. "I'm not going to risk it for some silly person who doesn't believe in science."
|Leah Johnson at Kids Ink.
Mullin reported that her store saw an uptick in sales of books by and about people of color after nationwide protests began in late May and early June. Several of her staff members attended protests, she added, and in the midst of this the store was doing pre-sales for Leah Johnson's YA novel You Should See Me in a Crown. The store had planned to host her launch party, but that turned into a virtual signing instead. It was a very successful event, with the store selling more than 200 copies of the book. "Leah is a force and there couldn't be a better author to speak about Black Lives Matter," Mullin said. --Alex Mutter