Published: April 14, 2020
UNITED STATES – From the Pacific shores of San Francisco all the way across the country to the Atlantic coast in Westerley R.I., and Mystic, Conn., booksellers are asking for help to get them through the retail crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In California, noted retailer City Lights Booksellers & Publishers has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise $300,000, the amount needed to keep the business afloat.
City Lights was founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1953. The store became a hub for the beat movement and published many of its iconic works.
By midafternoon on April 10, the store had raised $255,184 from over 5,000 donors, over $100,000 of that in the preceding 24 hours. (Update 4/14: they have reached their goal and are currently at $467,729)
“I have had the huge privilege of spending 33 years at City Lights, learning the crafts of bookselling and publishing, working on a project that feels irrefutably meaningful,” said publisher and chief executive officer Elaine Katzenberger on the campaigns funding page. “During all that time, it has never once seemed possible that our momentum could falter and our project could fail, but we’re all in uncharted terrain now. City Lights is faced with formidable challenges at present: our bookstore has been closed to the public since March 16, and must remain closed for an indefinite period of time. Unlike some shops, we’re unable even to process online orders, since we want our booksellers to remain safely at home. With no way to generate income, our cash reserves are quickly dwindling, with bills coming due and with a primary commitment to our staff, who we sent home with full pay and healthcare, and who we hope to keep as healthy and financially secure as possible.”
To donate to the City Lights GoFundMe campaign, titled “Keep City Lights Books Alive,” visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/aeany-keep-city-lights-books-alive. (Update 4/14: As the campaign has reached its funding goal, other bookseller campaigns are more in need of funds for survival.)
Bank Square Books, Mystic, Conn., a 30-plus year business, and Savoy Bookshop & Café, Westerley, R.I., both owned by Annie Philbrick, have started a similar GoFundMe campaign. The campaign has raised $29,561 of its $100,000 goal as of April 10 with donations from 369 donors.
“On March 16, we furloughed over 30 staff, keeping only four to manage online orders, social media posts to keep our stores alive virtually, and our bookkeeper,” wrote owner Annie Philbrick. “They are working their tails off to keep books in your hands and keep us going despite our doors being locked. Whatever funds are raised will go to our payroll and utilities, liabilities, and rent to hopefully carry us through until we are able to fully reopen our doors. This fundraiser will be the lifeline to help our stores survive and return as the community gathering places we have worked so hard to bring to our towns. SBA and State of Connecticut loans may be another source of help, and we have applied for them, but those programs appear to be oversubscribed already and we may not meet all of the criteria in any case.
“When the COVID-19 crisis was looming in early March, and we were faced with the decision to close our stores to the public, Kelsy April, our rock star manager at Savoy Bookshop & Café and longtime employee, said ‘we made it through Super-storm Sandy, we can make it through the COVID-19 crisis.’ When speaking recently to reporters, I am asked what the difference is between Sandy and this crisis. My response is this: With Sandy, the tide came in and the tide went out. We could see exactly what we needed to do to reopen and about how long that would take. Today, in this crisis, we have no idea about the future. We are trying our hardest to weather this new storm, but our stores are still “flooded” and we have no idea when the tide will recede.”
To donate to Philbrick’s GoFundMe campaign, titled “Support Bank Square Books/Savoy Bookshop & Café,” visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/k2vdy-support-bank-square-bookssavoy-bookshop-amp-cafe.
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