Utah bookstore owners urge to shop locally

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A customer takes a look at a book at Pioneer Book. Many independent bookstore owners feel it is more important than ever to shop in local stores. (Kaelin Hagen)

Bookstores across Utah and Salt Lake County have struggled to maintain a steady flow of business due to COVID-19.

Scott Glen, the general manager of Pioneer Book, said at the start of the pandemic that most independent bookstores had to close their doors completely without knowing when to open them again. He said they need to turn into an online business.

Anne Holman, general manager of The King’s English Bookshop, said when the store closed its doors it also started running a much more robust online business.

“We worked hard to get people to our website and educate them about how to shop with us online,” said Holman. “We still did everything we could to remind our customers that we were here and just because they might not be able to come we did everything to make sure they got their books.”

Now that the stores are fully open, bookstore managers are encouraging people to shop locally to support the community.

“Supporting your local bookstores, especially now, means not only supporting the stores, but also supporting the people who work in the stores. Your neighbors, friends and family, ”said Holman. “And it is more important than ever that we all support each other and get through this together.”

Ken Sanders, the owner of Ken Sanders Rare Books in Salt Lake City, said he believes local shopping is essential to creating a special feel in the cities people live in and that cities and towns through the shops become great in them.

“What makes cities and towns unique?” Asked Sanders. “Is it a department store chain or is it small, tiny, independent bodegas and restaurants and bookstores and cool shops that are on site, where the money stays on site?”

Sanders went on to say that if people want their local stores to close forever, all they have to do is keep shopping from the big companies.

“They will see that small independent businesses are gone in another decade. Because if you don’t support them, they will go away, ”he said.

A man adjusts the sign on the Pioneer Book on Center Street in Provo. Pioneer Book is one of the businesses that has faced unique challenges due to the pandemic. (Kaelin Hagen)

The pandemic has also inspired bookstores to get creative and do good. Dan Cullen, senior strategy officer for the American Booksellers Association, said many bookstores have found new ways to involve their community. For example, Pioneer Book made it possible for customers to donate their in-store balances to a program to help children read, Glen said.

Other ways bookstores could engage their communities were through Instagram live storytimes for kids, Zoom interviews with first authors, and Facebook Live book group meetings. “This program continued for many stores as their communities opened up and store browsing, events, and shopping returned,” said Cullen.

While the pandemic has posed many challenges for independent bookstores, Cullen said there is a lot of community energy and support around local businesses.

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