Covid and the bookstore

When we were still in the planning stages for lala books, we talked a lot about the importance of creating a space for our community. Books can easily be found online, but we wanted to fill that need for browsing, to create an opportunity for the joy of stumbling on a book you never even heard of but that calls out to you from the shelf. Over the past 10 months, we’ve watched our space transform into just what we imagined. I’ve heard high school students squeal with glee when they find a new manga, watched 7 year olds pull off 20 books from the chapter book section before deciding on one. Readers peruse the tags on our shelves to help them find their next good read. All of it makes us ridiculously happy.

And we’ve been able to open the space up for author readings, book clubs, casual meetings between friends, and even a Meet Your Representative coffee hour. Last week, our amazing construction crew - the ones who made the floors shine for our opening last summer and opened the space to make plenty of room to browse while keeping a bit of distance - returned to put up a track for hanging art. Now we can move forward with plans to connect with the local schools about showcasing student work off campus. And, our electrician is ready to go once the new track lighting arrives to brighten up the space.

We are so proud of the gathering space we have built and have been so busy working on it, that we put improvements to our website on the back burner. We already had so much to learn about getting the books that people want, and organizing them in a way that people can find them. We worked on the website, but allowed it to move down the to-do list when other things felt more immediate. We got more shelves, we planned for better lighting, we set up contracts with publishers, we talked with dozens of local authors. But we kept coming back to work on the site (to be clear, Thea did the vast majority of that work) and on Monday, May 23, our new and improved website made its first appearance. By the end of the day, a customer had placed an order (thanks Patrick!). We can now showcase on our site not only the store inventory (most of it, I”ll explain) but also the inventory available from our main distributor. Customers can buy right from the site, through a secure portal, and arrange to pick purchases up in the store (for no additional fee) or to have them delivered (with shipping charges added). If you choose “store pick up” we’ll walk purchases to your car curbside, or you can pop into the store to pick them up.

The site could not have gone live at a better time. The Lamarre Anderson family has been dealing with Covid. We are hoping to open up the store for normal hours, but are trying to make the safest decision for our customers and staff. Booksellers outside the family have been taking on full responsibility for keeping the doors open, but it has been a lot for a small staff. We appreciate all the kindness shown. If it is easier for you, we hope you’ll check out the website.

The site is supported by IndieCommerce and we are still learning a few things. For example, many of our local, self-published authors are not on the site yet, but we’ll be contacting them to see if they want to be listed. A lot of our fabulous merch, like stickers and bookmarks. aren’t there yet, either. And we know many of you want access to those cool T-shirts with artwork from Matt Gotowala. We’re working on it, please keep checking in. And you can help us by giving feedback and letting us know what works and doesn’t for you.

Covid has made gathering so difficult over the past 2 years, and these 2 weeks have been particularly difficult. We’ll open the store as much as possible over the next week, as we have staff available. We appreciate your patience with this overworked crew filling in for those of us who can’t come into the store. You’ll likely see all staff masked up and we encourage you to do the same, though mask wearing remains optional for customers.

10 months ago we opened our doors and our community came out for us. You’ve been continuing your support all these months. We hope you’ll keep supporting us.

Thank you.