Bookshop Superheros: Edmonds Bookshop
May 7, 2021
Bookstore workers and owners have been absolute essential workers during this pandemic—heroes on the frontlines of our mental health. After those first months when reading felt really hard, when the doom-scrolling kept us in our lizard brains, books were there waiting for us in all their analog selves. Books, as one 2020 Summer Book Bingo player said, are the only safe way to travel right now.
In appreciation of our local indies who have reinvented their processes and protocols over and over again in the service of getting the just-right book to the just-right hands, our Bookshop Superheroes blog series features interviews with our partner bookstores and special Instagram takeovers to get a glimpse into a day in their store. (Not following us yet on Instagram? Check us out!)
Next up is Edmonds Bookshop, who is taking over our Instagram on Tuesday, May 11!
Fifteen miles north of Seattle, facing Puget Sound and the Olympic mountains, is the town of Edmonds—a fun destination to visit for its charm, restaurants, shops, and most importantly, its independent bookstore, Edmonds Bookshop. Described as “friendly and cozy” by a grateful local who especially likes their hidden children’s book nook, Edmonds Bookshop has been a staple in the town for a long time—read on to learn just how long! We interviewed David Brewster and Mary Kay Sneeringer, co-owners, who share the top sellers in their store and more.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
For Edmonds Bookshop and most of Edmonds’ businesses, 2020 started off on a high note. We’d just thrived on (and survived) another holiday season, and we were gearing up for spring just as the pandemic emerged, to be followed quickly by lock-down requirements. We were forced to close the store to browsers in March 2020. We encouraged our customers to order books on our website or through email, and we had one or two staff inside with the lights off filling orders; we began offering free media rate shipping, free local deliveries, and curbside pick-up.
We were buoyed by a rush of large gift certificate purchases from customers eager to help us through the rough patch of closure. The special gift of a number of signed copies of Ivan Doig’s books and a big personal donation from Carol Doig were especially appreciated and gave our spirits a needed boost.
With the help of a PPP loan, we paid staff through the shutdown, even though most weren’t working. Our landlord gave us a break on rent. A Snohomish County grant allowed us to add an additional computer station in our back room to help with distancing employees when we reopened. When we did reopen in late June, with an eight person limit and masks and hand sanitizing required, business was well below historic averages for the time period, though we continued to see increased online sales.
Business improved in the fall, and November and December brought us back to holiday rush periods of yore. With the added responsibilities of manning the door and maintaining order in the sidewalk line up, daily manual processing of dozens of online orders, managing burgeoning stacks of curbside pick-ups, and squeezing in deliveries, it was a breathtaking experience all the while. Deliveries accounted for more than 4,000 road miles in 2020. Thanks to the bestsellers listed below, and to the multitude of good wishes, patience, and purchases by our loyal customers, we were able to surpass previous holiday seasons, and 2021 is off to a solid start.
What have been some of your top sellers this year?
- A Promised Land by Barack Obama
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
- How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
- Overstory by Richard Powers
- Cold Millions by Jess Walter
- The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
- What It’s Like to Be a Bird by David Allen Sibley
Tell us a fun fact about your store!
Edmonds Bookshop will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2022. The current owners, Mary Kay Sneeringer and David Brewster, purchased the store in March 2001, so they just observed their 20th anniversary of ownership. Mary Kay and David met while working at the University Bookstore in Seattle, and while their career paths kept them in the book world (she in wholesale, retail, and library work; he in sales and editorial on the publishing side), they swore they’d never buy a bookstore. Until they did. It was one of the best decisions they’ve ever made, and they are grateful for the bookstore staff, and the strong community of readers and fellow businesses that make Edmonds such a great place to live and work.