How second-hand bookstores in Hamilton have been impacted by the pandemic

Published March 26, 2021 at 2:33 pm

How second-hand bookstores in Hamilton have been impacted by the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a large impact on countless businesses in the city – in some cases negative and in some cases positive.

Used bookstores are no exception.

Pickwick Books has been around since 1995. For nearly 30 years, customers have been coming into this Waterdown-based second-hand bookstore. However, over the past year, the current owner, Cheryl Kaufman, has had to make several changes. One of these changes has been introducing ‘assorted book boxes’. Customers can place an online order of six, four, or two assorted books and have them delivered to their home or pick them up in-store.

Kaufman said in an email that the boxes have been received by customers quite well.

“I have recently become an avid subscriber for home delivery of items such as local produce, groceries, etc., and I wanted to provide the same ease and comfort to book lovers,” Kaufman said.

“They kept me very busy, especially during our two lockdowns, which was fantastic. We are now shipping boxes of books from our wee shop coast to coast!”

On March 17, 2020, Kaufman announced via Facebook that Pickwick Books would be temporarily closing as a result of COVID-19. Following two lockdowns and restrictions, Pickwick Books officially reopened, with safety measures in place, on Feb. 17, 2021.

Regardless, Kaufman has enjoyed the book boxes so much so that Pickwick Books will continue to provide this service as Hamilton approaches a ‘new normal.

“I enjoy selecting books for each and every order,” Kaufman said. “Whenever all restrictions are finally lifted, I will continue to fill online orders, it’s a joy for me. Our new normal is to continue to keep our customers safe and well stocked with books whether they order online or browse our shelves in person.”

Westside Stories in Westdale is another second-hand bookstore that has been impacted by the restrictions of COVID-19.

“Customers were choosing not to come out – they didn’t want to be in circulation, so we had a lot less customers around,” Lyn Barlow, the shop’s owner, said. “Then when lockdown came, we still had a lot of people who just didn’t want to be buying from somewhere because ‘we might be infected’.”

Barlow said, however, that Westside Stories has taken all safety precautions and that products are disinfected and sanitized. To get this message out to customers, she used social media to reach customers who are active online. To reach customers who aren’t online, she put appropriate messaging on Westsides’ answering machine and posters on the shops’ door.

“It was difficult to get to all the customers,” she told IntheHammer.

Barlow said that running the shop throughout the pandemic has been a day-by-day process and that every day is different. The shop hours have been adjusted to make more time for cleaning and, currently, there are only five people allowed in the shop at a time.

“We’ve lost a lot of money but we’re still here,” Barlow said.

Despite having to tackle various obstacles throughout the pandemic, Barlow noted that used bookstores are essential to the Hamilton community.

“Bookstores have slowly become a rarity,” she said. “We used to have a lot of bookstores in Hamilton, we’re now down to a low number. They are so essential because people [often] can’t afford to go a buy the now increasing prices of a new book.”

Barlow expanded on this further: “A used bookstore is essential but used from the point of hard-to-find, out-of-print, is absolutely essential because trying to find those is hard. To be able to walk in and browse, and see what you’re looking for, or find something you weren’t even looking for. Being able to see what is available. To be able to browse in a bookstore is heaven to an awful lot of people.”

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