I have written about these before. The stories are even better now, during the pandemic. Take a look!
Downtown L.A. has undergone a cultural renaissance in recent years, and The Last Bookstore (453 S. Spring St.) is one of the local institutions that paved the way. Opened in 2005, a time when too many independent bookshops were closing, it is now California’s largest bookstore with some 250,000 new and used tomes. It also sells records and is justly famous for a massive array of graphic novels. But what makes the place such a pleasure to visit is the whimsy the owners have brought to the enterprise. Set in a marble-clad former bank building, the store is filled with oddball book sculptures, mazelike rows of books, and hidden rooms such as a repurposed bank vault that now holds rare volumes.
Powell’s is the largest independent bookstore in the world—the flagship location (1005 W. Burnside St.) in Portland covers an entire city block. Its massive size and buzzy atmosphere have long made Powell’s one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions; poet and Reed College professor Samiya Bashir has dubbed the store “Portland’s Eiffel Tower.” Selling new and used volumes side-by-side (one of the first businesses to do that), this self-proclaimed City of Books also hosts over 500 author events and gatherings each year, ranging from poetry readings to activist literature circles.
Supporting Powell’s right now: After media outlets reported that Powell’s might close for good during the global health emergency, the store received such a huge surge of online orders that it was able to rehire more than 100 employees. Powell’s continues to sell books via its website. Forget Amazon, use the independents!!
Many others are thriving: City Lights in San Francisco, Elliot Bay in Seattle, Parnassus in Nashville, Faulkner in Nawlins, Tattered Cover in Denver, Sandmeyer’s in Chicago, Trident in Boston, Malaprop’s in Asheville, and Politics and Prose in DC.There is a lesson for small business owners complaining about the covid related shutdowns and stay at home orders. ADAPT!!
I am tired of hearing them complain, without even trying. Restaurants are the sorriest bunch. I hear the excuse, my menu is not conducive to take out or delivery. I say, change your menu!! The biggest complainers are bars and restaurants on TV and in the news. Hello! Bars have never been essential.
My dear friend (and former dentist) in the Bay Area told me a great story. A friend of his with a Chinese restaurant in Berkeley just remodeled his restaurant. He reopened days before the covid lockdowns last March. Fast forward to today. His customers must now order their takeout dinners by 3pm, or completely miss out on dinner!! He is so busy, he had to hire more cooks! In addition, he added an award winning wine list, almost doubling his gross income!!
I see too much arrogance out there. I see huge egos that have been injured by the pandemic. But I see very little creativity. What might the common denominator be? Quality products, at fair prices, with creative marketing.