Q: Know how you can make a small fortune selling books?
A: Start with a large fortune.
Just to unpack the punch line: Even though most bookstores aren’t legally non-profit entities, making a “profit” in this field is defined as not actually losing money while you are sustaining day-to-day operations.
I am so, so proud to tell you that, since we opened in the heart of Evanston nearly six years ago, Bookends & Beginnings has operated in the black. In fact, the growing love and support for us in our community has enabled us to grow along with it. Maybe we made you a book recommendation that brightened your life or the life of someone you gave it to. Maybe we donated a gift certificate to your school’s or your organization’s silent auction fundraiser (we've donated a lot of gift certificates!), or hosted an event or a fundraiser for you in the store. Maybe you got a chance to meet a favorite author, or celebrate the publication of your book or a friend’s book at one of our author events. Maybe you watched your child or someone else’s straddle the back of one of our beloved sheep and get lost in a story.
We look forward to doing all these things with and for you again when the COVID-19 crisis passes. But right now we face the challenge posed to so many small retailers: without walk-in business, we simply cannot make enough money to pay our bills, especially if the store remains shuttered—as now seems likely—for weeks if not months. Our rent, our inventory, our software licenses and other monthly expenses aren't going away, and we are committed to keeping our staff employed; right now, from their homes, they are making it possible for us to keep shipping you books from our warehouse at a time when that Big Online Place has instituted delays on its book orders. You can contact all of us by email and we’ll all be happy to go on making book recommendations and responding to your questions and concerns. We are SO grateful for all the online orders we’ve gotten since the crisis hit, but they provide only a fraction of the revenue we need to stay solvent. And yes, we plan to pursue government grants as they become available, but based on experience so far, we expect that to entail crashing websites and long delays. Loans are simply not an option, because cashflow even in the best of times does not generate enough of a cushion to pay off a loan, on top of normal operating expenses.
Launching a crowd-funding campaign is not something we like to be doing—especially at a time when we know so many people are anxious and trying to deal with the impact of this crisis on their own lives. But we need your donation now to ensure our survival in these uncertain times. And since we know that other bookstores in Chicago and across the country are in a similar position, with hundreds of booksellers being laid off, we will guarantee you that, whatever contribution you decide to make to Bookends & Beginnings, we will share 10% of your donation with the Book Industry Charitable Foundation —BINC—a nonprofit foundation that gives life-sustaining grants to individual booksellers and bookstores across the country facing a crisis.
Any amount that you can donate will really help. And sharing this campaign on social media will also really help! Other ways you can continue to support the store while we are closed:
o You can continue to place orders on our website at www.bookendsandbeginnings.com for items that can be shipped to you directly from our warehouse, without requiring in-store processing.
o You can purchase gift certificates on our website. We offer two different options. Online gift cards can be sent digitally and used ONLY FOR ONLINE ORDERING. They cannot be redeemed in-person inside the store. You can also purchase our in-store gift certificate online and it will be mailed out to you or your designated recipient. This one can be used ONLY FOR IN-STORE PURCHASES.
For me personally, the past six years have been an incredible journey: seeing Bookends & Beginnings grow from an idea into such a vital, visible gathering place for Evanston’s literary community. “I’m so glad you’re here” is a refrain we were hearing daily in the store. Above all, we love being a Happy Place for so many people who love the physical book—and while we’re lucky to be able to keep serving you the best we can online for the duration of this crisis, what I really look forward to is seeing you again in our cozy store.
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