Nicole Sullivan – January 2022
How to even recap a year that felt like a decade?
This time last year we were heading into the new year with trepidation but so many reasons to feel hopeful. A vaccine was on the horizon and warmer days were ahead. Here at BookBar, we were busy adjusting our business model in reaction to Covid for about the twelfth time and had every reason to think that things could only improve, that the worst was behind us.
Since then, there have been so many ups and downs; of dipping our toes into the water only to yank them back out as the roller coaster of pandemic life continued on with declines in cases, spikes in cases, new variants, old variants, new old variants, and an increasingly dizzying array of restrictions and guidelines. We were thankful to have been able to reopen our bar and bring back most of our indoor seating and even hosted a handful of in person events but had to cancel our Introverts’ New Years Eve party last minute when Omicron reared its supercontagious head. Some of you remarked on social media, however, that what introverts most want is for their plans to be canceled so… your’e welcome, I guess?
A wise woman once said ‘you can’t keep a determined bookseller down’ (ok, that woman was me, wise or not). The hard times made me only more resilient because, after all, the more we’re stuck at home, the more books we need to have on hand, right? Through it all, I’m as amazed as ever at what we’ve been able to accomplish this year. I am so proud of our dedicated, passionate, and tenacious staff and volunteers and am incredibly thankful for our amazing customers and community. We couldn’t (and wouldn’t want to) do any of this without all of you. I, personally, have committed to go into the new year focusing on the positives and the silver linings so I’ll bring you with me on this journey:
The Bar is back in Town
After a year that saw an 80% decline in our bar sales, we brought in Jonah Kaplan to lead us through food & beverage operations in a new Covid reality where the only constant is constant change. Jonah brought his energy, passion, and expertise from his years of running his own family’s bookstore bar at Books & Books in Miami. We have since acquired a new liquor license and cocktail menu! Jonah has crafted a selection of literary-themed cocktails to pair with your favorite book. You can even get one to-go during this most recent Covid surge where we’ve, once again, limited indoor dining. We’re really looking forward to getting back to regular hours, reservations, events, and chatting it up with all of you seated at the bar.
We bought a new bookstore!
We couldn’t be more thrilled to be the new owners of The Bookies. After the devastating news of founder and owner Sue Lubeck’s passing this past Summer, the store went up for sale. It feels especially insane to purchase a fifty year old children’s bookstore in the throes of the pandemic but as a wise woman once said (yeah, me again) ‘it’s so crazy that it just might work.’ And I think it’s gonna work. After a heartbreaking year, particularly for The Bookies, it has been soul-warming for me to walk into a business that has such heart and compassion. I mean it when I say that I have learned more about people management from hearing stories about Sue for the past couple of months, than I’d learned the previous eight years of running BookBar. I can’t thank The Bookies staff enough for welcoming us so warmly and graciously with open hearts and minds. It has been a pure pleasure to learn from them all and get to know their fiercly loyal customer base. I am so excited for all of the opportunites and potential ahead for us all. This move has also given me the opportunity to work with my long-time friend and colleague, Katie Rothery, who we hired on as Operations Manager to help oversee this transition and ongoing operations of both stores. I am training her to be me so I can read more books.
You Down with PBC? Yeah, You Know Me
Along with the purchase of The Bookies we reincorporated into a Public Benefit Corporation, benefits being:
Literacy: 10% of all book sales at BookBar (and Bookies starting February 1st) are donated to our non-profit organization BookGive, which serves our community with free books for anyone who needs them. Learn more about BookGive below. Our work in getting authors and their books into schools is helping to create life-long readers and perhaps writers. And our store programs, such as author events and book clubs are designed to bring the community together around literature.
Freedom of Expression: We doubled-down this year on our committment to free speech and freedom of expression. In light of the explosive increase in book challenges and out-right bans on a national level (ahem, Texas), despicable attacks on librarians, pressure on writers and publishers to self-censor, and readers’ rights being increasingly curbed by those who think they know best, I am more concerned than ever about the future literary landscape. One of the most compelling reasons that I got into bookselling was the threat Amazon posed to emerging and diverse voices by relying solely on algorythms to steer customers to particular purchases. I remain firmly entrenched in my belief that the MORE voices the better, regardless of whether I, personally, agree with those voices or not. I respect your right to choose your own reading materials. Stand firm against anyone who tells you what you can and can’t write, should or shouldn’t read. Literacy and freedom of self-expression are human rights. This year we are lending our support to PEN America and National Coalition Against Censorship.
Diversity Equity and Inclusion: It is crucial that spaces offering book access be welcoming to everyone of all backgrounds, experiences, and abilities. We highlight diverse and marginalized voices on our shelves, displays, and promotions so that all of our readers can find a story in which they find themselves and to promote those who are getting their stories out there, against greater odds than many of us. We are striving to hire as diverse a staff as possible because every child should have the comfort of discussing and buying books from someone with whom they can relate.
Sustainability: We continue to keep environmental sustainability front of mind in everything we do. Our bar serves locally-sourced, organic products (including herbs and veggies from our very own garden!) and our to-go containers have always been compostable and recyclable. We particpate in a recycling and composting program while doing our best to mitigate the environmentally impactful business of bookselling, which requires the destruction of so many trees, by ‘recycling’ books back into the community through BookGive. We are currently looking into replacing our beloved diesel-guzzling Mavis the Magical Bookmobile with an electric version.
Big BookGive Impact!
Our nonprofit organization, located at 4890 Lowell Blvd, now in its second year has continued to have a big impact on literacy in our community. This year alone we donated over 60,000 books to 241 organizations, while racking up 2,029 volunteer hours. Since we opened in March 2020, we’ve donated over 90,000 books! You contribute to this cause everytime you buy books from us. If you are one of our V.I.P. Members, 100% of your tax-deductible $50 annual membership is donated to BookGive. Thank you! And giant thanks to Melissa Monforti, our executive director aka miracle worker, our board of directors, and every single one of our moret than 140 volunteers. We are thrilled to announce that we’ve closed out the year with a successful fundraiser. We exceeded our goal and raised $10,000 to make our headquarters accessible to all as we prepare to open to the public. In addition to all of the donations throughout Metro Denver, we will soon be able to welcome everyone into our ‘store front’ to browse our selection of FREE books. We are just now planning for our next fundraiser to help replace family libraries for those who lost their homes in the recent tragic Boulder County fires. Books can come as a comfort for those suffering such catastrophic loss.
BookBar Press Keeps Publishing
After releasing our second book in January, we began work right away on publishing our third book due out in June. We’ll share more as the pub. date gets closer but, for now, I can say that we are so excited to get behind this book and author. A couple more books are in the works for the future and we’re still working on rolling out our long-planned menu of author services to help local writers get on the path of publication.
We have so many reasons to be thankful and optimistic in spite of all the challenges we all currently face. Let’s stick it out together with kindness, patience, a good book, and a toast to better times ahead.
If you haven’t done so already, please take a moment to get to know our whole family. Check out the following websites and follow us on socials: