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The pandemic's impact on independent bookstores, Saturday is Independent Bookstore Day

“There’s nothing like picking up a book..."
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Posted at 7:11 PM, Apr 23, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — This Saturday is Independent Bookstore Day. Authors and publishers give independent stores exclusive releases to show support. Talking Leaves on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo, and other local stores had to miss it last year due to the pandemic.

Talking Leaves reopened in late January.

“There’s nothing like picking up a book, there's nothing like browsing through the shelves, and flipping through the books,” Assistant Manager Alicia Michielli.

Brick and mortar at its core, Talking Leaves began online orders about a year before the pandemic began, and come the shutdown, the store transformed into a warehouse for curbside and online orders only.

The store said it received such a spike in orders around Christmas that it had to pause online orders to guarantee on-time deliveries.

“We get orders from far flung areas all the time, people who went to college here, people who used to live here, and still want to support their hometown bookstore," Michielli said.

The original Main Street location closed a few years ago.

The Elmwood location has been open for almost 20 years. Neighbors started a GoFundMe during the pandemic to support the business.

Michielli said community support from shoppers during the pandemic gave them a new sense of confidence.

“Now we really know that our community wants us here, and needs us here, and we’ll do everything we can to stay here,” Michielli said.

Just like every book tells a different story, every book store has a story of its own.

Gather and Game on Grant St. used to be Westside Stories. Joe Petri and his wife owned Westside Stories and a game store, but knew they could only afford one rent when the pandemic hit.

“I do miss a lot of parts about people being surrounded by literature, and people who love it,” Petri said.

They moved the games to the bookstore's former location. Westside Stories was approaching its ten year anniversary when the pandemic hit.

“Particularly with our bookstore we didn’t really have much of an online presence, which going into the shutdown really made it hard for us, and it would’ve been a real uphill battle to get that many 10,000 titles up online quickly.”

He said new owners bought the name and inventory of Westside Stories.

Michielli said Saturday could be the busiest day since reopening, but capacity in the store, and customers time in the store, will be limited along with other COVID precautions. The Independent Bookstore Day exclusives are first come first serve.

“I don’t think shopping in-person for books is ever gonna go out of style,” Michielli said.