It has been three months since I directly communicated to you about the state of your independent neighborhood bookstore. Today, I want to share our deep appreciation to you, our community, for embracing Gramercy Books through this pandemic. You have been here for us and we will be here for you.
The State of our Business
Across the country, independent stores are struggling. We’ve been told that more than one indie bookstore a week has closed since March. Each store faces different challenges based on their local economies and how hard hit they have been by the coronavirus.
At Gramercy Books, we had to reinvent ourselves during this pandemic, as did many of our industry peers, with online commerce representing ever larger parts of our revenue. Because we are small, we’ve been able to pivot quickly to an enhanced online commerce model. The store's entire book inventory is available on our website There are options for curbside pickup, in-store pickup, and shipping.
Here, I must give a shout out to Gramercy’s knowledgeable, dedicated, and hard-working staff: my business partner John Gaylord, store manager and book buyer Debbie Boggs, assistant store manager Marcy Ford, virtual media manager Mattie Shepard, store supervisor Ashley Walters, and booksellers Katie Cerqua and Carly Briggs.They have handled current challenges with grace. They are always willing to talk to customers on the phone or in person in an effort to meet their reading and shopping tastes.
Gramercy staff, meanwhile, greet customers wearing masks and operate with different protocols in this pandemic. There are hand sanitizers at every workstation. Shared surfaces are cleaned frequently. Distancing is enforced with no more than fifteen people allowed in our 2,500 square foot store at one time. Due to an abundance of caution, we only accept credit or debit cards.
Since we currently can’t gather for author programs in person, we reshaped our events from live to live streamed. While virtual events can't replace the in-person programs in terms of book sales or audience experience, they have allowed Gramercy Books to work with some truly incredible authors who may not have been able to visit otherwise and exposed our programming to an audience beyond central Ohio. Since April, we’ve produced these virtual programs for thousands of viewers hosting authors including former UN Ambassador Samantha Power, acclaimed journalist Robert Kolker, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist-turned-novelist Connie Schultz, acclaimed poets and writers like Julia Alvarez, Jeanine Cummins, Alex George, Jill McCorkle, Mary Doria Russell, Maggie Smith and Saeed Jones, and music legend Peter Frampton.
Our final Gramercy Book Club of the year will be held on November 24 featuring the discussion of How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. This event is the culmination of a community service initiative for which we are very proud. From Juneteenth until November 3, Gramercy Books partnered with King Arts Complex in support of The HeART of Protest, an initiative led by KAC, a multidisciplinary artistic organization dedicated to social justice. The effort was designed to bring together over twenty Columbus arts and cultural organizations for 46 days of artistic protest to honor the 46 years of George Floyd’s life. Gramercy Books donated 100% of the profits from the sales of How to Be an Antiracist, encouraging both the expression of protest, as well as the reading of this transformative book about antiracism. As a result, the store has been able to donate $2,716.12 with the sale of 241 books.
The holidays are just around the corner and this season of joy is crucial after the year we've all had. We hope you'll let us help you find the perfect gifts for your loved ones. In addition to our remarkable book selection, for the holidays we have added lots of gift items for kids and adults.
To make sure you get what you want and avoid holiday crowds, we encourage you to shop early. After our publisher and distributor partners began warning us of potential delays as we get closer to the holidays, we began an early holiday push in October. We’re happy to see so many of you have responded!
We are offering a personal shopping experience in November with the purchase of a $150 gift card. I encourage you to call the store to learn the details. We’re also extending our store hours in December from 10 to 8 pm Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm Sundays. And, remember, our website is 24/7.
Finally, our fourth birthday is December 12th! We plan to stretch our birthday celebration over nine days, offering a 20% discount on gift cards from December 4th through 12th. We are tying the first two days (December 4 and 5) to Bexley’s Holiday Hop. Spreading out our annual celebrations, and the holiday season itself, allows us to keep you safe.
There are many bright spots amid the pandemic! Most involve the support and appreciation the store has received from you, our community! We have found ways to connect personally with a lot of you in new and different ways—there’s longer and more frequent telephone conversations, we’re communicating through our thrice weekly e-newsletter to nearly 8,500 of you, the Gramercy team has learned all sorts of ways to improve our online systems and create a more intimate and efficient process for you.
We are learning how to bring you the very best independent bookstore experience now and lay the groundwork for our future as we look forward to transitioning post Covid 19. Many of our practices will remain—curbside pickup, a more robust and efficient online commerce system, occasional extraordinary virtual events as part of our author programming menu—when we can gather again.
I love to plan things and I am hoping, sometime in late 2021, that Gramercy can invite you to join us, in person, for a new “grand opening” in our fifth year—to celebrate getting to the other side of a pandemic, to celebrate you—our community, to celebrate the wonderful Gramercy booksellers, and to celebrate books and reading and a corner bookstore that will remain one you can depend on for conversation, inspiration, discovery, and community well into the future.
Written by Linda Kass
About the author: I began my career as a magazine writer and correspondent for regional and national publications and am now an assistant editor for Narrative, an online literary magazine. My debut novel, Tasa’s Song, was inspired by my mother’s early life in eastern Poland during the Second World War. My second historical novel, A Ritchie Boy, was published on September 1st. I am also the proud owner of Gramercy Books, serving all of central Ohio!
Learn more about me on my personal website.