Book Revue is Long Island’s largest independently owned book store, but much like many other businesses they were greatly affected by the Coronavirus. The store has been around since 1977 and is a staple of Huntington village life.
When the Coronavirus first hit in March, retail stores were forced to close. They launched a new version of their website to allow people to shop online. Though their new website had been in the works for months, they pushed it out quickly to continue sales.
“We sold books every single day that we were closed, taking orders online which were shipped to customer homes. Eventually, we were able to take phone orders, as well, and offered contactless and curbside pick-up, in addition to shipping,” said general manager Julie Wernersbach. They have always taken orders over the phone and will continue to do so. Right before everything shut down, they organized a local delivery service which they are planning to bring back. ‘Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for people to pick up the books they need, however they may feel about being out in public and interacting with others at this point,” Wernersbach said.
Book Revue has made changes to make customers and staff feel safe shopping in-store. They added a Plexiglas barrier at the information counter and registers and made several aisles one-way, like in supermarkets. They also removed several displays as well as chairs and couches in order to ensure shoppers can maintain six feet distance from one another. Throughout the store, hand sanitizing stations are set up for customers and employees are to sanitize after every customer interaction. Before reopening, they hired a cleaning crew to do a deep clean of the store; they continue to come each week to clean and disinfect. The staff disinfect the store throughout the day as well. All customers and staff are of course required to wear a mask.
To Wernersbach and so many others the biggest hurdle in regards to the virus is the “unpredictability of the virus and its economic impact on small businesses.” Though they had sales everyday they were closed, their sales were nowhere near what they would have been in a normal instance. “It cannot be overstated: the only way local, independently owned Long Island businesses will survive the long-term economic effects of Covid-19 is if shoppers make the choice to support our stores and keep our towns vibrant, healthy, and in business,” she said. “We all have to spend our money where it matters and where it makes a real impact on our communities.”
Since their business was fully online while they were closed, their other major hurdle was, “unpredictability of shipping timelines and delays within the systems of out book publishing partners,” Wernersbach said. For Book Revue and so many other e-commerce sites, “the USPS has been fundamental to keeping us operational throughout this year. Changes to the USPS workflow and delays within their systems, affect out business dramatically by affecting customer satisfaction and … whether or not we can reliably deliver a book.”
Known for hosting book signings and other events, the store has moved their events online. “We’re experimenting with several different event models, just as we always did in-store. Some events are free, some require a book purchase,” much like events in the past. They use Crowdcast which allows the audience, those participating, to do everything from asking questions to purchasing the book from their e-commerce site. Their Book Revue Book Group has been moved online so members can still actively participate.
“It’s been wonderful to be able to find ways to help people connect when we’ve all been homebound this year,” Wernersbach said. “This is what books are for, right? To give us a way to connect with other people and experiences.”
Huntington Now is catching up with businesses to see how they’re doing during the epidemic. If you’d like us to report on your business, email Sapphire Delzio at [email protected].