Well, it’s been one year since we opened our doors to the public. The thing I distinctly remember was Ross pushing to open today and me still painting the two window boxes as the Downtown Partnership crew was walking through the door to see what we had created, camera in hand. I was still wearing my painting clothes, which doesn’t mean much because, after 90 days of renovating, literally all of our clothes had become painting clothes.
While this is a far stretch from what Ross and I imagined our 1-year anniversary would look like, we’re even more proud of what we built over the last year—and in particular—in spite of the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order that hit in mid-March. There are many things we had planned (Find Waldo, author events, Children’s Book Week, book festivals) that have now been impacted by this awful virus, but I’d rather focus on all that we accomplished instead.
During the holidays, it felt like we were hitting our stride. Our book sales were pretty steady, although still unpredictable. We learned that what we anticipated that our Downtown customers would want (politics and current events) were not the most popular genre. The top-selling genre is general fiction, as opposed to non-fiction. While many bookstores around the country find success offering non-book items, we learned that you guys don’t want the sidelines so much. You’re hard-core readers, and that says a lot about Sacramento. We are the literary city that too many publishers think doesn’t exist in Sacramento. We’ll leverage this to our advantage in attracting big-name authors to our bookstore once we’re able to hold events again. We were also seeing interest in the cooperative events we were doing with the Crest Theater. Proof that our business plan will work.
We were fortunate that we had already invested in a robust website and Point of Sale system prior to opening last April. That positioned us nicely for the sort-of organized chaos that began in March. Our challenge was effectively operating with only half of our staff. For safety reasons, we furloughed all of them, leaving only Heidi and Ross to run things…while our business increased. It hasn’t been easy, but we keep tweaking things to make it run more efficiently. We’ll be bringing back all of our staff when it’s safe.
What this last year taught me—that I hadn’t anticipated—is how many customers would become friends. Not only have we learned many of your names and faces, but we remember when new babies were born or due dates, your children’s names, what types of books you enjoy, and where you work. It’s what I miss most during this shelter-in-place period.
We wanted to acknowledge our wonderful staff and volunteers—Tommy, Megan, Anara, Nicole, Erica, and Shae. It didn’t take COVID to make us realize how much we already appreciated them, but we sure do miss their faces (and help) around the store during the quarantine.
On the horizon for us:
We will survive this and be even stronger for it. Soon, we’ll begin the process of renovating the second floor to become what we’ve been promising clients for the past year: wine, beer, coffee and books. We’ll start with the books part and add the other stuff as we get licensing and permitting. The upstairs will expand on the Art Deco of the first floor, but add more of a Miami Beach flair to it. It’s going to be really fun up there with Flamingos (not real ones) and lively colors.
Once the shelter-in-place order lifts, we’ll continue to offer book delivery (with a small fee) and curbside pickup for those who don’t want to hassle with parking. But please don’t think of us as your Amazon alternative with these services. The whole point to a brick and mortar shop is for that human interaction. Please continue to come in as much as you can. It’s what makes our store special.
We also plan to host an anniversary party for those who supported us during the quarantine period (when it’s fully safe to gather). From the bottoms of our hearts, Ross and I can’t thank our customers enough for an amazing first year. When you come by, you’ll get to see our new sign that was installed on Tuesday. Now you’ll be able to find us even easier.
Here’s a look back on our past year.