Pandemic creates challenges for Holt bookstore

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The Bookshelf in Holt has struggled to turn the page on the coronavirus pandemic as shutdowns, health restrictions and reduced traffic have cut into its business.

Like other retailers, The Bookshelf, which sells new and used books, shut down in the spring. 

“It was a rough two and a half months,” store owner Laura Spanberg said. “We got shut down in the second or third week of March and came back the first or second week of June. We paid April’s month of rent and when May came up I called the landlord and told him I couldn’t go much longer without having any business. He said that was fine and worked with me.”  

Spanberg is no stranger to store closings as the Bargain Books she worked at previously shut down for business. She realized she loved her job and wanted to continue in the bookselling space. 

 “I really liked my job. I like all my customers. I hated to lose it,” Spanberg said. “So I went home and said something to my husband about how I would like to open our own, and he said great. So I went back in and said, instead of packing up all these books why don’t I just buy them from you?”

The Bookshelf store, 2495 Cedar St. in Holt, opened in 2013. 

“We’re not Schuler’s or Barnes and Noble or anything but I have my own little clientele,” Spanberg said. “They are happy to come in and don’t mind used books.” 

Spanberg said her customers do a lot of trading with her. 

“Customers can come in, we take up to 25 books at a time and in store credit is 70-30, Spanberg said. “If we just traded books then I would be the library and wouldn’t make any money. They don’t seem to mind. It works out real well.” 

The customers who continue to come into the store keep everything running smoothly, and Bookshelf has implemented many things to make sure to keep their customers safe. 

“Masks are required, and when people use a basket we take the basket afterwards so we can sanitize it,” said employee Paula Sherman, who is Spanberg’s niece. “We use a fresh pen with every customer if they have to sign at the credit card slip. I go through and wash the bathroom handles, light fixtures and cash register every day before I leave.” 

Spanberg said she works long hours to keep the store running. Her niece works a few hours a week to give her some time off. 

The store sells a variety of products, including fiction from authors like James Patterson, Dean Koontz, Steven King and Ray Childs. 

Spanberg said movies based on books have really helped sales of these authors. 

“It’s fiction, religion, children,” Spanberg said. “Those are probably the three that I sell the most of.”

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