For L.A. bookstores, this holiday season is make or break during the pandemic

Two days after Thanksgiving, on what is sometimes known as Small Business Saturday, Jennifer Gracie plopped a stack of hardcovers onto the checkout desk of Chevalier’s Books, a charming shop in Larchmont Village. The haul for Gracie, a 54-year-old transplant from New York, included an Italian cookbook for her husband; a crime novel for her mother; guidebooks for her daughter and friends; and a David Bowie puzzle for her sister-in-law.

It could have been any other holiday shopping season, except for the masks, the plexiglass barrier separating Gracie from the salesclerk and the sign at the window that read, in part, “Max Occupancy 6 Customers.” There was, too, the sense of urgency and mission, among both store employees and customers lined up outside.

“Even if I see something that I know is easily available through overnight shipping through that behemoth we all know about, I have to buy it at a real bookstore,” said Gracie, referring to the dominance of Amazon. She chose to shop in person despite the pandemic, and also because of it. “It just makes me so sad when I see all the bookstores shuttered around the country, and it’ll be tragic if we keep losing them.”

Since the pandemic swept through the U.S. in March, independent bookstores have struggled to survive a gantlet of ever-changing restrictions: mandated store closures, partial reopenings, caps on in-store browsers and, in California, a stay-at-home order that further restricts retail capacity. According to the American Booksellers Assn., 58 member bookstores across the country have closed for good this year and 20% are in danger of shuttering after the holiday season.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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