June Review: Reopening, Hiring, DIY Barrier, Private Browsing, Collection Highlights


Friday June 5th was the beginning of our reopening process. Despite the mess and disarray those first few weeks, so many of you came out to say hello, buy books, and offer your kind, generous encouragements. It's been soul-nourishing to welcome you back. From my heart to yours, thank you. I look so forward to seeing you again.


[Photo credit: Robert of GIBCA - Thanks Robert, it was wonderful to meet you! I'm loving the changes in the group, and seeing what the Granville Island community really looks like.]


In terms of operations: Kids Market was open 11am to 4pm on weekdays and 11am to 5pm on weekends in June. Hours will revert back to 10am to 6pm daily for July. You may notice some stores are closed while others are open at varying hours. It's a challenging time for shops. June sales for us were less than 20% of previous years. And neither of our wonderful staff are in a position to risk possible exposure by returning to work right now (which I fully understand and support). Of course I want to be open every single day to be there for our readers and get our sales up, but it's been difficult flying solo. I apologize if you've come down for books only to find us closed some days. To help the situation while I hire and train new staff (view job post here!) I've created an online booking system for private browsing appointments. Please check it out - any feedback would be much appreciated.


Benefits of booking:

  1. Ensure the shop will be open for exactly when you'd like to browse.

  2. Your household will have the shop to yourselves during this reserved time.

  3. By making a booking you'll help me not miss a sale, with the opportunity to receive a bonus gift card for yourself or a loved one!

Booking is by no means mandatory. We should be open most days. If you would like to quickly check whether the shop's open before you head down, please don't hesitate to shoot me a message through the website chat box or my mobile: 778-840-4686.


In terms of the physical space: we have a barrier up at the counter, stickers on the floor to indicate physical distancing zones, sanitizers at the entrance for customers to use before & after browsing, and more at the counter for after pin-pad use. We can still accept cash, though contactless card payments are encouraged. I'm constantly wiping down high-touch surfaces and items, and there is a limit of 3 households/5 customers in-store at any time. Keeping the entryway clear, encouraging one-way traffic and distancing among browsers has been mostly easy - almost everyone seems to understand and respect the new measures necessary to keep us all safe. If you have a moment, please send me your feedback on how it's felt for you in the shop and any suggestions you might have to improve.




For other business owners out there looking for a low-cost DIY Covid barrier solution: I made one for our counter using a poster frame from Michael's ($34, link to product), some string, and screw-hooks. I got the idea from seeing the barriers Michael's was selling in-store for $130+. They looked to be frames exactly like this, just painted white with a standing base attached. Another affordable solution I saw was at Jj Bean. They're using a clear plastic shower curtain type sheet as a barrier. Pretty smart.



The island-wide free parking for June and July is a huge relief for all merchants and vendors. I sincerely hope the CMHC will keep parking free for the rest of the year and beyond. The implementation of paid parking really hurt us all significantly even before the pandemic hit. Many of us met with CMHC planners to let them know how paid parking would negatively impact visiting families and businesses across several stakeholder consultations last year, but they went ahead anyway. While I understand the CMHC needs to generate income for its operations and its many great projects and improvements planned, many of us operate with minimal margins, out of love and passion for our art. Even small changes can affect us a lot. Granville Island is a delicate and unique ecosystem of diverse artists and businesses. We need more recognition and protections as such. Here is their contact page if you'd like to leave your feedback on paid parking.


Something I have been consistently moved by and grateful for since reopening is just how many people are making a point of voicing their support for small independent businesses like ours, over chains, big box stores, and Amazon. It's amazing how this pandemic is almost forcing us to gain better awareness of how where we spend our money (maybe really, how all of our behaviours and how we move in the world) directly affects the earth, one another, and the most marginalized among us. Many of the faces I saw in June were familiar, but there were also many visitors who'd never heard of us before and were delighted to find us. I am more determined than ever to keep working to improve our in-store and online experience to better serve booklovers everywhere.


One upshot of the closure was the uninterrupted time I had to work on the online aspect of the business. It has been thought-provoking and fun* organizing our books into over 130 collections online that reflect what we're all about. So far I've got around 2200 titles uploaded, which is still far from representing all that we have in-store. My goal is to continue to upload at least 300 products from our inventory to our online shop every week. Some collection highlights:


Beautiful Books

Black Authors and Illustrators

Celebrate Pride

Different Abilities

Empathy

Empowering Girls

Encouraging Boys

Indigenous Pride

Large Print

Race

Raina Telgemeier Fans

Representation

Spanish

Uplifting


*Fun for the most part... There have been moments of absolute near-stroke frustration and despair working my way through both Wix and Shopify. I'll share what I've found helpful and not comparing the two platforms in a future post.


Before the online shop had even 200 products, I was surprised to receive orders from dear local regulars who remembered us and sent beautiful messages of care and encouragement. They went out of their way to share our online shop with colleagues, friends, and family both near and far. Many made repeat orders. It's impossible to express just how much this meant to me during those scary lonely weeks, and still does. I come down with a severe case of Moist Eye Syndrome every time I think about it. I'm truly grateful. I'll never forget your generosity and love.


Making deliveries in the lower mainland has been absolutely lovely and a great stress reliever so far. During the weeks when we weren't seeing or touching anyone it was so good to have some contact with people and feel of service. I appreciated every chance I got to say hello, share smiles, and commiserate with fellow book-people about the state of things, even if from meters away. I even drove the Sea to Sky highway for the first time for a delivery to Lion's Bay! Check out the view:



Even though our brick and mortar store is open again, I invite you to browse our books online if you haven't already. Take advantage of free contactless delivery (with $40 minimum purchase) and please don't hesitate to reach out if you aren't finding exactly what you're looking for. I'll do my best to get back to you with more information and suggestions, even if you don't end up purchasing through our shop, I'm here to help.


Another thing that's been incredibly heart-warming this past month is the huge uptick in queries for books by and about Black and Indigenous authors, history, and children, and people of colour in general. Though we have always carried books centering non-white experiences for both children and adults, they have never been as actively sought out by readers outside the communities they represent. I'm so happy to see that this is no longer the case. It is amazing to see families of all backgrounds enthusiastically diversifying their libraries and taking on conversations about race and racism with their children and loved ones. Our readers are incredible, and I can tell this will continue. It is not just a trend.



Celebrating and validating the lives of children of all backgrounds and abilities through the bookstore is an important mission for me, having grown up without the diverse representation in literature that is available and celebrated now. I remember how rare and amazing it felt to stumble upon a book featuring kids that looked like me, to see stories and families that echoed mine. Also how special it felt to be served in a public space in ways that demonstrated care and respect for me and my family, especially when we were newcomers to a place. It is a privilege and gift to be in a position to help people navigate the cultural and political awakening happening now, all while I myself listen, learn, and reflect too on how I can improve as a person, a bookseller, and antiracist. It is a position with responsibility that I don't take lightly or for granted.


Increased media attention on racist systems and perpetrators always brings up powerful feelings and memories for me, as I'm sure it does for many people. I am doing my best to turn my mind towards gratitude and action now, away from anger and paralysis. I'm taking time to process my own experiences and complex feelings through the incredible wealth of resources available more than ever before now through the grace, generosity, and labour of leaders of colour. I hope to contribute in my own small way to this community of learning by inviting you to join me in some easy to follow actions I'll share in the coming weeks. To educate ourselves and give tangible support to black and indigenous communities here. Some topics I'm currently writing about for future posts:

  1. Why representation and diversity matter. How enriching our shelves and social media feeds with experiences different than our own will transform our lives for the better.

  2. How to move beyond consumption to action when it comes to race.

  3. Thoughts on the evolution of books, what it means to take up physical space. The subversive power of physical books.

  4. Some observations as a bookseller on race, gender, and what children take away from how we interact with difference.

  5. Beautiful books that will stir your heart and make you cry.

  6. Wix vs Shopify: Tales of horror and laughter in the dark...

  7. My trip to the Bologna Children's Book Fair in April 2019.

  8. Honouring multilingualism, and an update on my foreign language books project.

  9. My trip to the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators conference in August 2019.

  10. Some personal perspectives and tips for aspiring children's books writers. What I look for in a book as a bookseller specializing in children's books for over 20 years.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my humble reflections here. Please leave a comment or subscribe below if you'd like to keep in touch!


I often get comments about the music I play in our shop. Here is a song that always boosts my mood. I hope you enjoy it too:







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

©2020 by Humpty Dumpty Books & Music