Amanda Hudson, manager and buyer at Bethany Beach Books in Bethany Beach, Del., reported that the store had its busiest Memorial Day weekend ever, and sales have been so high recently that it is hard to keep up. While customers no longer have to wear masks in store, they are asked to use hand sanitizer before browsing and staff members are still wearing masks.
Once the CDC issued its mandate saying that fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks, Hudson continued, it felt like "everybody went back to normal." Bethany Beach, which is a major summer tourist destination, seems just as busy or even busier than it was for Memorial Day weekend in pre-pandemic years. "People are just so ready to not be living a pandemic lifestyle."
The store recently announced that it will resume hosting children's storytime sessions at the end of June. They will be held weekly with limited occupancy and social-distancing measures in place. Hudson said that the store is planning quite a few outdoor author events throughout the summer. Elin Hilderbrand will visit on June 12, and Hudson expects very strong turnout.
Reflecting on 2020, Hudson said the store "survived it better than we thought we would." The team was very creative when it came to adapting to constantly changing situations, and she noted that the store picked up a lot of new online customers last year. Bethany Beach Books had already been working with online preorders prior to the pandemic, but they "skyrocketed" after the pandemic hit, as did subscriptions for the Book Drop, the store's monthly subscription service. The trick now, she remarked, is keeping all of those new online customers and Book Drop subscribers.
In normal years, winter and early spring is a very slow time for the store, but the beginning of 2021 was up significantly. Hudson attributed that to many people staying in their vacation homes for much longer than usual. With "no one renting," people who would previously vacation for a only week or two at a time were in Bethany Beach instead of renting out their properties.
In Riverside, Calif., Cellar Door Books is keeping with the operating hours that owner Linda Sherman-Nurick and her team established not long after reopening from last year's "total lockdown." Current hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and while the front door remains locked, people with masks can knock and be admitted for browsing.
Sherman-Nurick noted that the volume of online orders remains high, and she expects that to continue. She also doesn't expect to change the store's mask requirement anytime soon, "despite what the CDC said." She has no way of knowing who is actually vaccinated, and she is "not interesting in being anymore of a policeman than I already am."
On the subject of resuming author events and in-person book clubs, Sherman-Nurick said it would be nice, but she is "waiting to hear from some trusted people in health care to make that determination."
So far in 2021, store sales have actually been higher than they were pre-pandemic. Sherman-Nurick attributed that increase to the "really important partnerships" that the store formed during the pandemic with nearby schools and the City of Riverside. Covid-19 "brought home the concern people have about losing their independently owned community stores," she added. "We've been really lucky to have incredible support." --Alex Mutter