Peeking Around the Corner

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It has been a month since my last post. So much and also nothing has happened since then. On March 27th, I had just come out of a couple of weeks of mourning for my business that I knew would never be the same, not to mention society itself. Whatever the stages of grief are during this time, I had reached my Optimism with a Healthy Does of Realism stage where I could hesitantly see some possibilities.

Generally, I believe that the topics of religion and politics have no more place in business than at family dinners. However, these are not normal times. I apologize, in advance, for the less optimistic and angrier tone in this letter. But, one month later we are not in a better place. We were told that we were shutting things down in order to flatten the curve, relieve the burden on hospitals, and take a pause in order to catch up with where we needed to be on testing and contact tracing. We were told that help was coming. We have done a decent job with flattening the curve and not overburdening local hospitals, from what I understand. But our testing and contact tracing rates have barely budged. The large majority of us small businesses still have not received any funding that was designed to help us while we watch multi-million dollar corporate chains return the portions they never should have gotten in the first place. Our government has failed all of us – small businesses, educators, families, communities, front-line workers, our parents, our grandparents, me, and you. I am angry and you should be, too.

As we begin to contemplate how we pick up the pieces and reopen, we are one small business that feels like a lamb being led to slaughter. As a business upon which our community relies, we feel that we have a certain obligation to quickly spring into action to help activate a street and an economy. But we don’t have the tools to do it. When we sent our staff home for 6 weeks back in March, we did so in confidence that we would be in a better place here at the end of April. Perhaps, naively, we truly believed that there would be much more testing and tracing in place in order for us to do what is right by our staff, our families, and our community. The governor of Colorado and the Mayor of Denver are paving the way for businesses to re-open in the next few weeks but it essentially comes down to each business to do what is right for them. So we will be taking things slower.

Books are essential. The good news is that we have options for getting them to you. We are so fortunate to be able to retain a portion of our revenue, during this time, through online book sales alone. All things considered, we could hardly ask for more. A few of us will get back into the store in May and will hopefully begin offering curbside pickup again while continuing online sales. Eventually we will restart to-go orders of books and beverages but every risk we take is a risk we take so we’ll choose to keep everyone as safe as possible for as long as we can. And we’ll leave beverage sales to our neighbors who are also struggling. We are pulling for them to survive, too. Our singular goal remains: to get books into peoples’ hands. To that end, we have started spending our extra-leisurely weekends in our bookmobile, delivering books from our non-profit organization, BookGive, to Little Free Libraries. There is so much comfort in knowing that there are still some small things we can do to make a difference.

BookBar will be okay. It won’t be the same but we’ll be okay. We anticipate that all of our staff will eventually be able to get back to work but our jobs will look different. As I mentioned in my previous post, our focus will very likely change from a retail oriented model to a service and non-profit model (we’ll announce a lot of changes to come next month) but it is our friends I worry about – the fellow business owners, our neighbors, our customers, the authors who were already struggling to make ends meet and tell their stories and, above all, those without access to books. We all need stories right now – we need to tell them and we need to read them. They bring us together and give us needed perspective. We are eager to continue serving our community with this in mind. But as we begin peeking around the corner at what comes next, please be patient with us if we don’t follow the trajectory of other small business re-openings. We will be defiant in the face of government guidelines to re-open because the trust in our institutions has been further eroded. We are angry. We are hesitant. We are afraid. Make no mistake about it, you should be, too.