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The plan today was to get to the bookshop early to clean and organize as Kids Market will start reopening this Monday June 1st. Instead I sat at my computer at home all day writing about race and representation, with the first crewed spaceflight from a private company, ever livestreaming in the background still.

Though I was glad to have witnessed this event, the language of pride, possession and dominance was hard to ignore throughout this #LaunchAmerica production. While SpaceX is working hard towards their ultimate goal of enabling human life on planets other than our own, major cities across the US are burning as people and law enforcement clash in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer.

A young black girl just 17 years old who witnessed the homicide, had the foresight and courage to record the event then shared it. For this she is now facing backlash on social media for not doing more. A minor, really a child, stood her ground against four adult police officers while they worked together to extinguish the life out of a man twice her size right in front of her. What more could she have possibly done without endangering her own life?

These major events, in conjunction with the current pandemic, warrant some pause and careful reflection on priorities and purpose.

I want to reflect on how unspoken rules and ideas about race burden us all, especially children, and what we can do about it.



I want to acknowledge and honour friends and customers both near and far, as well as many of our staff over the years, who I know work to counterbalance these inequities in their daily lives, whether it is by necessity or choice, whether it is in big or small ways.



I want to think on how I can better serve our readers. Both our readers of colour who understand innately how vitally important it is for a child to not only see her own face, skin colour, hair, language, class, family and life, reflected validated and honoured in the monument that is the printed book, but those of every other kind of child too. As well as the many readers who brave their own discomfort to ask for suggestions on books that will help introduce, explain, and normalize diversity to their children from a young age.


I want to acknowledge and appreciate all the moms who ask for suggestions on books for their boys to help encourage empathy, thoughtfulness, caring, and kindness. This certainly has to be a big part of the equation for a better world.



I want to remember with gratitude the special moments of tender feeling and moistening of the eyes that can only really happen in the presence of other total and utter bookfreaks: those of us who understand the importance of language and the subversive power of books, and especially books for children, to shape who we are and change this one planet we all share.



In writing through these reflections I want to reaffirm the value of these pure and beautiful connections, even when nothing else feels certain or clear. In writing through these reflections I want to renew my commitment to my work as an independent bookseller. This work that allows a me to carve out a space, however small, where I grow and learn every day and have the opportunity to share my vision for the world through the magic of books and words.



Throughout the day I have rewritten and reread this post over and over again, like some kind of incantation towards a resolution. I have no concrete conclusion except that I am here and that I am with you. If you see me, thank you. And if you allow me to see you, thank you too.


Days 1-4

March 20th-23rd:

Dis-ease.

Information on small business support remained vague and changed day by day. Spent most of my time obsessively refreshing the news, note-taking, researching, hand-wringing, and chest-gripping. Immediately canceled all subscriptions like Netflix, Tidal, Spotify. The 10% wage subsidy had me cackling shabbily in the dark in fetal position because I appreciate a good joke. Laid everyone off. Cried a decent amount. Drank a fair bit of wine.



Days 5-7

March 24th-26th:

"Screw the news, why should I wait to try my best - let's get it" mentality.

16 hour days moving inventory from store to home, collecting ISBNs, and formatting import sheets to upload products onto the Wix platform. Dove in deep optimizing settings, apps, and accounts for Facebook and Instagram business. Wrote my first blog post here. Set up a Gift Card page (clunky) and a kind friend purchased the first one (thank you Lane)! Uploaded ~100 products onto the Wix shop. Signed up for free courses on EDX and Coursera. Attended a webinar by the CFIB which was incredibly helpful and reassuring. They have really been going to bat for small businesses at the political level. As well as updating information and resources on their website that you can access even if you are not a paying member. Received confirmation about our shop's rent deferral for April, though no news about March or May. The CMHC have communicated to the Granville Island business community at large a few times regarding rent relief, but not in very enthusiastic or concrete terms. There is an ongoing campaign for Granville Island business owners to write to the Hon. Dr. Hedy Fry about rent abatement. Once I get to writing my letter, I will share it here. Incurring debt so we can pay rent for the months we were closed and had no income is not a viable solution.



Days 8-10

March 27th-29th:

Burnout.

Spoke to the Vancouver Sun about first thoughts on new government announcements for small business support. The CERB and wage subsidy increase are positives, though unsure what the latter means for us. Everyone is laid off including myself, and I rushed to do this so we could all access EI as quickly as possible. Emailed our accountant to find out if I can hire back our staff given our current situation (no reply yet). The 40K loan interest free with forgiveness sounds great, but I will believe it once I study the fine print. Signed up for the shopify 3 month free trial. Uploaded Large Print Books to the online shop after finding out from a friend that all the seniors at the centre she works at are trapped in their rooms, having even their meals brought to them. Period finally came 10 days late and tried to murder me with cramps. Conflicting information about Advil made this an extra joyous time.



Days 11-12

March 30th-April 31st:

Lewis Ofman on repeat to bootstrap productively and good spirits.

Formatted and uploaded products to both Wix and Shopify. Alternated between periods of great flow and wanting to slowly walk into the ocean. Exchanged a lot of emails with Tim of Booknet Canada about the Shopify Bookstore Builder Plugin (thank you Tim for your help and patience). Zoomed with some of the lovely women I used to work with at VPL and shared some much needed laughs. Some things we shared with each other:



Day 13

April 1st:

Burnout take 2, ft. chips in bed.

Extreme anxiety about finances: rent, bills, overdue invoices. Spent the day with blinds drawn eating all manner of junk foods in bed watching movies from the 40s with Carole Lombard in them. After a day of dejected sloth received an email from a customer that made my heart swell and break and cry (thank you so much Grace, for your loving encouragement and query). Got to work putting together a collection of graphic novels for Raina Telgemeier Fans for the online shop:



Day 14

April 2nd:

Renewed purpose.

Jumped out of bed and went to the store to collect graphic novels and Easter books for Grace. Collected nearly 1000 other ISBNs to upload online. Touched based with Christine, our wonderful Kids Market building manager and liaison with our landlords. She updated me on all she is doing to advocate for us with the CMHC and local government for more support (thank you Christine - so grateful for you). Checked in with Donna of Just Imagine who happened to be there too. We started a Kids Market Shop Owners support group on Facebook together and it's been a great help to be connected in this way. She had just got her first online order in too. It felt great to share information and unload our frustrations with one another. We wondered if there was a greater group for all Granville Island businesses and artist tenants to share information. And if not, maybe starting one. Got home and uploaded relevant products as fast as I could on Wix. The other ~1000 ISBNs I collected were easily imported onto the Shopify platform, with all metadata already populated (description, title, product image, price). By evening was able to email Grace back with suggestions and my heartfelt thanks. Was extremely touched by this post my friend Emma made about the first Covid birth she was a part of:

If you or anyone you know is expecting, please consider Bunky Bambino - a full service Doula network led by Emma. Probably one of the most devoted, passionate, hard-working women I know.



Day 15

April 3rd:

FIRST ORDER & PAYMENT RECEIVED THROUGH OUR ONLINE SHOP!

Amazed and so grateful. Went to pick up the order and carefully sanitized every item and wrapped them in saran wrap for delivery. Also made a little book drop at Kitsilano Wine Cellar for Jacob, the best wine guy in town. I'm beginning to get more comfortable sharing what I'm doing with friends. It's difficult to ask for help, or bring attention to myself, especially at a time like this when I know so many of us are facing financial uncertainty. But it is helping a bit to reframe the situation as providing a service and goods for people who need it right now.



Days 16-17

April 4th-5th

SECOND ORDER & PAYMENT RECEIVED! AND MORE QUERIES FOR BOOKS!

Received our second online order through the website! (Thank you Rowan!!) And more inquiries from customers looking for specific kinds of products. Many requests for baby books, books on kindness and empathy, activity books. Because our access to the building is restricted to weekdays, I've been doing what I can from home in preparation for getting these collections together on Monday. Some beautiful scenes from my Sunday evening walk with mom in Maple Ridge:



Day 18

April 6th

Panicked Urgent Calm

Went to the shop again to collect ISBNs and products for specific requests. Worked as hard and as fast as I could, but couldn't help feeling frustrated and a bit overwhelmed doing everything alone. Loaded the car with hundreds of books again. Got home and applied for the CERB - thankfully only took 5 minutes. Emailed Aimée and Bryn to check in and see how they're doing. Uploaded 1500+ items onto Shopify, and now will export this list and format it for Wix. I'm happy to have some momentum back in my routine, working to get the online shop into shape. But it's a kind of panicked urgent calm now permeating my every waking moment, knowing everything that needs to be done without the ability to do it all at once. All I can do is try.










Updated: Mar 27



Dear beloved booklovers and supporters of Humpty Dumpty Books,

As of Friday, March 20th, we, and the entire Kids Market, closed our doors indefinitely so we could do our part in mitigating the spread of Covid-19.


What an emotional rollercoaster it's been. Each day last week I found myself faced with business decisions I'd never thought to think about as a young business owner. I felt confused, scared, frustrated, sad... It was devastating to have to lay off our staff - the wonderful, beautiful individuals who've contributed so much to making our bookstore so unique and special. Not being able to see and connect with fellow booklovers in the context of our shop has also been a huge and difficult adjustment.


On the upside, I really felt the love and care of our many regulars, and fellow Kids Market tenants and staffers during the last days we were open. Many of you came by out of your way to check in on me and Aimee and Bryn to ask how we were doing. We shared joy, thoughts, and laughs about our favourite books, writers, and artists. We were able to share our burdens of worry, fear, and uncertainty, all while holding back from the urge to hug. It is such a comfort to know that I am not alone in this - that none of us are. For this I am deeply grateful - thank you.

Despite the challenges now and all the big emotions I'm still currently feeling, thinking of our staff and customers is helping me focus on what I can do now to ensure our people have a workplace to come back to, to ensure we can continue to serve readers by offering beautiful, diverse, heartfelt books you can't easily find elsewhere.


We have always focussed on in-store service rather than online sales because of the frank reality that a small brick and mortar business cannot compete in price with giants like Chapters and Amazon. But over the years I have learned that our customers return to our bookstore for the quality of our selection, excellent service, and the element of surprise. It is always magical to see the delight in customers faces when they stumble across the works of Mohsin Hamid, Noam Chomsky, Audre Lorde, Gary Larson, a book of poetry in Scottish Gaelic, books in French, Spanish, Japanese, Tagalog... It has been heartening too to see the collective consciousness awakening to the value of small businesses like ours powered by real passion, sweat, and love for our craft, rather than algorithms, exploitation, and the bottom line.


So with all this in mind, I hope you will take a moment to consider the following actions you can take to help us keep on keeping on:


  1. If you are able to - purchase a gift card. Every gift card purchased online will help alleviate immediately some of the financial pressure we're currently under. You can select any amount from $2 and up - truly anything will help. There is no time limit on gift cards and they can be put towards future purchases both online and in-store (when we reopen).

  2. If you are able to - buy books through our online shop! It's quite spare right now, but I'll be adding more items every day. Look out for workbooks and resources for homeschooling, and fun creative "starterpacks" based on mood and theme coming soon. There are options for free curbside pickup and frontdoor delivery. If you would like to surprise a friend or make a donation or anything special like that please don't hesitate to reach out to me here through the website or through email directly: vachellianilotica@gmail.com.

  3. Like, follow, and interact with us on Facebook and Instagram! In the coming weeks, I'll be sharing posts about books and products, as well as news about what Vancouver's small business community is doing to support one another. If there is a lesson learned from other countries that have flattened the curve of the pandemic it's that transparency and wide open sharing of information is vital. We may not have control over the virus, but we can support one another by sharing our challenges, resources, and tips for navigating the road ahead together.

  4. Leave us a review on Facebook or Google and help us reach more people! It would mean the world right now to receive any notes of encouragement.

  5. Share and sign this petition for actual small business support. Billions towards banks, industries, and loans will not trickle down to us little guys. More debt is not the answer for us. We need concrete help to survive, not just deferral of rent and interest. Your awareness and added voice is so important on this issue.

  6. If you or your loved ones are impacted by layoffs here is a very helpful breakdown of the EI application process prepared by Christina Mackay (thank you so much Christina for creating and sharing this - it has been extremely helpful to us here).

  7. Drop me a note please and let me know how you're doing, how you're feeling, what you are looking for, how I can help. You can message me through any online channel, as well as through my personal mobile: 778-840-4686.


Thank you so much for reading. Thank you so much for your business. Thank you so much for your friendship, care and support. I look forward to connecting with you more in the weeks ahead. Please take gentle care in the meantime.


With much love and gratitude, Jennifer Kim

 

1496 Cartwright St, Vancouver, BC V6H 3Y5, Canada

©2020 by Humpty Dumpty Books & Music