Please note: Orders for curbside pickup, especially for books we have to order in, will not be available immediately. Once your order is ready for pickup, we'll be in touch! Please make sure you've given us an email address you check frequently, or leave your cell phone number if we can text you.
We're happy to report that we've improved our system for pickups to make it a whole lot more flexible for you. Here's what you do:
Order new and/or used books on our primary website, www.hellohellobooks.com, and choose "pick up" when you get to the shipping options.
Order cards, journals, merchandise and gifts at our secondary website, www.hellosnailmail.com. (If you're ordering from both sites for pickup, write "please combine with my book order!" in the order notes.)
Wait to get a notification from us (text is easiest, but we can also email or call) that your order is ready for pickup. If your order is a combination of things in stock and things we have to order in, our default is notify you when all of your items are in--but if you prefer to pick up the in-stock items earlier, just let us know!
After you get notification that your order is ready, you can pick it up Tuesday through Saturday, any time between 7 am and 2 pm, in the foyer of Rock City Cafe's Main Street entrance. Rock City will be open for takeout only, and the staff who greets you at the door will be able to hand your order to you; just let them know your name, and that you're here for a bookstore order! We're so grateful to Rock City for offering this service, since it allows us to make it available more days of the week, and gives you the flexibility to pick it up without having to give us a heads up that you're on your way. (Plus it's a good excuse to come get some coffee that you didn't have to make yourself.)
Past covid/closedown updates:
Welcome to where we are.
I have started this first sentence so many times and erased it so many times. It's like ripping off a bandaid, lots of tentative steps knowing it'd be easier to just dive in. So let's dive in.
I'll start with some quick updates and links for those who aren't feeling up for a longer letter from me--but rest assured a longer letter begins at the end of this link roundup, after the picture I took of our blooming forsythia branch (blooms we've been anticipating for a week, and are finally here.)
Firstly, two days ago we launched an online fundraiser for the shop. This was not an easy decision to make (you can read about it in the fundraiser letter I wrote), and we know that not everyone, no matter how much they love this shop, can afford to contribute. But if you have the means to do so, know how unspeakably grateful we are for that commitment. If you don't have the means but wish you could help anyway, please share the campaign with others who might; that's also an enormous help.
Next up: though we're currently operating with a skeleton crew behind the scenes in the shop (more on that below in the letter), we can't sustain this much longer, and will be moving into Pause mode on Thursday, April 2nd. What this means: Jacob will be going on temporary leave, and Lacy will be working from home as much as possible, fulfilling online orders that will ship strictly from our wholesale distributor. We won't be offering curbside pickup after Thursday, and won't be available by phone, though I'll still be checking email. Our website will shift into a mode where you won't be able to order anything from us that you can only get at our store (our used books, most of our merchandise, care packages, etc.) But you'll still be able to order most in-print books, and we'll be reinventing our care package program a little to create and ship them right from our distributor. No surprise, I also have a bunch of other ideas brewing on this front, so stay tuned.
Thirdly, we'll be phasing out of our #shoptheshelves event on Tuesday, March 31st in order to focus on fulfilling outstanding online orders and curbside pickup orders. That's when you'll see our website change to reflect ship-only options, and when we'll begin shipping new orders directly from our distributor. We also have a backlog of care packages to complete and ship, so with that in mind we won't be able to accept new care package orders after Tuesday either. Thank you to every last one of you who've ordered in the last few weeks; we would have been lost without you.
Fourth, as for our other beloved staff members: we hadn't announced it yet, but Hillary was actually already in the process of transitioning out of her work with us (though she's still gonna participate from a distance!). Hannah has gone on leave, and we have high hopes we'll be able to hire her back, provided we weather this. Cameron and Jillian had been doing some wintertime fill-in shifts, and those were coming to a close as well. They're all sheltering in place, and we miss them.
And lastly: these changes aren't meant to imply that I'm not working just as hard as ever to keep this business in business. Part of the job ahead of me is going through the process of applying for an SBA grant, restructuring our finances, carefully budgeting the donations we've received, paying bills, returning the bulk of our unsold new books before the shop sits quietly for the next little while, and planning for how to scale ourselves back into being in business as a physical store once it's safe to do so. I'm trying to think of it as a deep breath in, but I also picture it as a kind of a contraction or contortion around something vulnerable to keep it as safe as we can until the storm is well past. You can still get your books from us--please, please do!--to help our center hold; you can still expect recommendations and lists and enthusiasms (maybe more than usual) as we move more deeply into these quarantine days. And I have ideas I'm excited to share once this pause is in effect, so please keep your eyes on your inbox for those.
And now, a deeper dive. I've been feeling badly about being off our newsletter routine, especially since we get so much positive feedback from you about it, and I know any little bit of routine normalcy right now is a balm. Since we closed to the public last Monday, Jacob and I have been behind the scenes (both remotely and at the shop, though on separate days!) frantically filling care package orders, online orders, curbside pickup requests, and fielding calls. Meanwhile I've been waking up every morning, on nights I've actually slept, wondering what major shift I might have to make today, and whether the work we put into that shift will be cancelled out by a change the following day, or if someone I love gets sick. My work as the captain of this little ship, and architect of our next step...and our next...and our next...it's been hard to find time for that. And that time is crucial if we're gonna make it.
This pause probably doesn't make a lot of sense to a lot of people, especially since we've been staying busy with online orders, but our business model and our operations setup is not based on online sales, and we're working harder than ever for the lowest profit margin we've ever seen. I say this not out of a lack of gratitude for the amount of support we've received since we closed--the orders flow in every day, and every day I honestly weep at least once at something one of y'all has said about how important we are to you--but as a reckoning with the limits of our capacities, and a knowledge that working this hard, right now, isn't healthy or advisable. It was our responsibility to our community to close to the public earlier than we had to; it's our responsibility to our community, family and friends that we don't endanger ourselves by prioritizing working out of the shop above all things.
I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that Jacob has been extraordinary through this (I'm working on a better title for them than "Operations Director", or I'm at least gonna get that sewn onto a nice cape they can wear) and I owe it to them to make sure they're able to spend time more seriously quarantined and resting up for a return to whatever awaits us on the other side of this.
My husband Jared has been working long hours, too, but worrying about me more than himself. My five and a half year-old daughter has been so patient with me these last few weeks, despite her missing school and her friends and her usual go-go-go life, and I owe it to her and to Jared to slow down and be more careful. As this widely circulated article from a few days back sums up, so much of what we're collectively feeling right now is grief, and we all need to find space to process that grief as best as we can, and help those we love do the same. It's the only way to come out of this as strong as we can, and as I wrote in our fundraiser story, we want to be there on the other side of this tunnel, and we want you there with us.
Wherever you are, whomever you're with, please stay home and safe as much as you can. (And tell us what you're reading while you're there!)
Take good care,
March 27th, 2020
letters from lacy: the covid 19 edition
Hi pals! Though as of this writing (the morning of March 12th, 2020) we don't have any confirmed cases of Covid in Maine, I think we all know it's just a matter of time. In the interest of transparency, I wanted to share with you what we're already doing in the shop to reduce general germ transmission; a few thoughts on the potentially disastrous effects a shutdown could have on your favorite businesses, and ask a few questions in order to help us in our efforts to be proactive in our planning.
We're all, of course, following the oft-repeated common guidelines: encouraging extremely thorough handwashing, keeping an eye on our personal health to make sure we're not symptomatic, and working on social distancing. We've also made our giant bottle of hand sanitizer available for use at the checkout counter, and we're on a much more rigorous and thorough schedule of daily disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces.
I've asked all of our staff members to model social distancing (please no handshaking, touching or hugs!) and gently remind customers to give other patrons space. It's not easy, we know! The shop is small and cozy, and it takes a lot of conscious effort to do this kind of distancing. But remember: even if you feel fine, and aren't particularly worried about contracting the virus yourself, we're taking these precautions to protect the most vulnerable among us...and it's not always readily apparent *who* is most vulnerable.
We're trying to remain positive while also being proactive. If, at any point, we have to shut down for a period of time, the loss of income could be catastrophic for the staff and the business itself. This is true of so many of your favorite spots (think of how many of us don't have the option to just work remotely!) so do what you can to support them during this deluge, even if it's just sharing their online shopping portals (cough hellohellobooks.com cough cough) with your friends and family, or purchasing gift cards to use after the worst is over.
If you need an outlet for your anxiety right now, think about donating blood to help yourself feel a little better! The Red Cross urgently needs donations, and there are a few drives coming up in the Midcoast (or go to redcrossblood.org to find a drive near you.)
Here's a question for you locals: as we start to see business decline and/or if we need to shut down to public business, would you be more likely to order online if we offered curbside pickup? What about if we offered local delivery? Don't hesitate to email us with any thoughts or genius ideas!
Our website is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and we ship for just 99 cents. You can also purchase gift cards there!
Thanks to all of you for reading and participating, and for helping take care of your communities.