Throughout Rhode Island, it’s pretty safe to say we love our bookstores. In South County alone, we have six of them, each independently owned. Throughout the year, but especially on April 30, be sure to visit at least one for Independent Bookstore Day, a national celebration that takes place annually on the last Saturday in April at participating indies across the country.
Bookstores are so much more than retailers. Each unique brick-and-mortar offers a space for people to come together – both in person and virtually – to exchange ideas and share in the human experience. Shopping at your local spot is a great way to support neighbor-owned businesses who in turn bring employment opportunities and other services right back into the community.
Operating during a global pandemic has been challenging, but booksellers have adapted in order to survive; they’ve come up with creative ways to engage their audiences and, fortunately, customers have responded. The folks at Savoy Bookshop and Cafe in Westerly offered free media mail shipping on books, curbside pickups, and local deliveries along with hosting virtual readings and events. Since March, Savoy has returned to in-store events and larger scale activities like lectures and film screenings are in the works in partnership with the renovated United Theatre across the street.
Former Rhody Gem Books on the Pond, an idyllic spot housed in three barns on 2.2 acres, created an outdoor reading patio last spring, which continues. Owner Alexandra Lehmann has events planned for IBD, which will focus on stories from the sea. “Our fiction barn will include recent and best-selling books where the ocean plays a predominant role, and our nonfiction barn will have all things marine, from the best new fish cookbooks to science and nature writing, especially focusing on fishing and ocean conservation,” she says. “We love that our customer base is so Ocean State oriented, and we are learning that these are the books and stories most relevant to our readers and visitors. Many of them will typically take their new books to the beach!”
Most booksellers also use their Instagram accounts to broadcast enticing images of stacks of books for shoppers to essentially do some pre-visit browsing (bonus points to Island Books for curating themes). A simple way to show support is to follow them on their most active platform, comment something positive, even post photos of yourself at their shop or goods you have purchased and tag them. Sign up for their newsletter to learn about special events.
“A physical book gives you an experience,” says Kelly Allen-Kujawski, owner of Rarities Books and Bindery, which opened in Wakefield last fall.
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