Quarantine? Book business is brisk in Portland's Multnomah Village
Annie Bloom's Books, a presence in Multnomah Village since 1978, is a busy place these days.
No one who works there has been laid off because there's plenty of work to be done. You can call the store at 503-246-0053 between noon and 4 p.m. to order a book or books, or you can go on line at any time at www.annieblooms.com.
There's been an almost steady line of cars stopping by 7834 S.W. Capitol Highway for curbside pick-up of books that have been ordered ahead of time. But as of Thursday, April 2, that service from noon to 4 p.m. each day will be provided only if you buy a book that's currently in stock.
"In the past few weeks, we've had to constantly revise our way of conducting business, from managing customer browsing then closing the store, to repositioning work stations in order to maintain safe social distancing. Who knows what tomorrow might bring?" said Michael Keefe, publicist and events coordinator at Annie Bloom's.
"Our customers are amazing. We've been blown away by their support, both in terms of the number of books they're ordering from us and the wonderful messages of gratitude and encouragement," he wrote in an email.
The SW Community Connection had a few questions for Keefe about doing business during a crisis.
SWCC: Any trends in the type of books people are ordering?
Keefe: Our book buyer, Will Peters, has noticed that adults are buying a higher proportion of major new releases, such as Hilary Mantel's "The Mirror & the Light" and Erik Larson's "The Splendid and the Vile," than they typically might. Is that because readers are currently less likely to gamble on a less familiar author? Or, if they had the opportunity to browse in the shop, would they have picked out a previously unknown title from our Staff Favorites table? Hard to tell. In either case, we're just happy that people are reading whatever will best get them through these difficult times.
SWCC: I like to think of Annie Blooms as Portland's second-best-known independent book store. Did you go through what Powell's did, laying people off then bringing them back to handle online orders?
Keefe: No one has been laid off from Annie Bloom's. In mid-March, several staff members elected to shelter in place, including store owner Bobby Tichenor. Fortunately, we've been able to give more hours to staff members who'd previously been working part-time or fill-in while they attended school or worked other jobs. Typically, we have upwards of 20 people on staff. Right now, we have maybe half that many who are working at the store, a couple of staff members (myself included) who are working from home, and others who are on leave.
SWCC: Any shortages reported by your suppliers because of a surge in demand? Are readers reading more?
Keefe: We have noticed minor delays in receiving shipments from Ingram, the country's last remaining large-scale wholesaler. Not surprisingly, publishers such as Workman, who print a lot of the most popular workbooks, appear to be having a hard time keeping up with the sudden demand for homeschooling materials. As to whether readers are reading more, it's hard to gauge. They're definitely buying lots of books from us, especially for their kids.
SWCC: Are there plans to increase the number of virtual author readings like the one Steven Mayfield, author of "Treasure of the Blue Whale," is doing tonight at 7 p.m.? (Information at the Annie Bloom's Books Facebook events page.)
Keefe: We do hope to be able to accommodate more live-stream readings in the coming months. Most likely, these would focus on local authors. It's a very hard time for anyone in the creative arts, and, as always, we'd love to help connect authors to readers.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.