November 17, 2020
When I was in Paris a few years ago, I made it a point to visit the iconic English-language “Shakespeare and Company” bookstore near Notre Dame Cathedral. The store, which opened in 1919, was, during the 1920’s, a gathering place for such literary luminaries as Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce, and published Joyce’s novel Ulysses in 1920. Henry Miller called it “a wonderland of books.” It is a treasure.
Now, the COVID pandemic is threatening the store’s very existence. The store’s sales volume has dropped 80% since March, and its owner says that all of her savings have been depleted. To make matters worse, Paris has just entered a second lockdown, and all nonessential stores have been shuttered for the second time in seven months.
Actually, this is a story with what may turn out to be a happy ending.
A couple of weeks ago, the store’s owner she sent an email to her customers, informing them that the store was facing “hard times,” and encouraging them to buy a book.
The result? Oh là là!
The store experienced a record 5,000 online orders in one week (compared with around 100 in a normal week), including one from French President François Hollande.