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Life in an Independent Bookstore Near Seattle

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Coronavirus Diaries: I Own a Bookstore. I Don’t Know How Much Longer We Can Survive.

I live in Tacoma, WA, about 30 miles south of Seattle, the epicenter of the coronavirus influx into the United States. This article in Slate therefore caught my eye and seems appropriate to pass on since it’s about books.

Laurie Swift Raisys, owner of Island Books in Mercer Island, WA, points out a fear that all business owners must face when nobody is going out shopping: 

As a business owner, you rely on the community and the people that come in and shop at your store in order to pay your bills and pay your employees. Last week was incredibly stressful, and this week has been very stressful, and I don’t really see an end in sight right now.

But what pulled at my heartstrings even more than the purely economic complications of this medical emergency is the community impact:

We’re a community gathering place. Our slogan is “Real people, real books, real community,” and we’ve been around 46 years. My husband grew up on the island, and I worked part time for a number of years as a contractor. My contract ended one year and I decided I was going to do something different. I’d always wanted to own an island business, because I love this community. Everyone knows your name. They know your kids.

Raisys explains that several of her customers are over 60, the demographic most at risk from this particular virus. These people have been ordering by phone or email, and she has been dropping off books at their homes.

Further, “People are hibernating, and it makes it hard for us as a place of community. You cannot be in the business of social distancing, as they’re calling it, when you are a place that people come to for book clubs.” Often, book club represents the sum total of people’s social life, especially older people’s.

It’s easy to lose sight of aspects like this when we’re focused on more immediate health concerns. “It’s a small town, and they [residents] support when they can,” Raisys writes, but this disease is bound to have severe long-term effects after the immediate crisis is over.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

4 replies on “Life in an Independent Bookstore Near Seattle”

You’re so right, Nicole. Just today I found an article in the Guardian (from the U.K.) about how book sales are increasing because people are ordering some of their “bucket list” books. So that, at least, is encouraging. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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