Main Point Books, Wayne
Four years ago, Cathy Fiebach moved her bookstore from Bryn Mawr to a larger storefront in downtown Wayne, where it quickly became a beloved destination for bibliophiles, book clubs, local authors and those looking to kill time before their dinner reservation. Just before the coronavirus pandemic, Fiebach and her staff were busy prepping for two major author events in late March.
How was business before COVID-19?
Things were going really well. We were getting ready to co-host two really big author events, which was a huge deal for us, since it can take awhile for publishers to get to know you and trust you. Then the virus hit. We canceled the first event [an evening with young adult fantasy writer Sarah Mass at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside]. By that point, we had already sold 700 tickets. Thankfully Keswick handled all the refunds, which would have been really overwhelming for me.
What about the other event?
Well that one was with N.K. Jemisin at Rosemont College, which we rescheduled as a virtual book talk and Q&A through Crowdcast [a video platform for live performances]. About 10 to 15 people asked for refunds, and the rest chose to attend the event virtually. I assured them it would still be a very intimate experience and that everyone would have the opportunity to submit their questions to Jemisin. We had about 60 people log on, including some from other parts of the country. I was really worried about how it would go.
Why were you so worried?
I was worried about people being able to log on. Also, the author is political, and I worried about someone posting inappropriate questions or comments. It’s one thing to be rude in person; it’s another thing to be rude online. But it went much better than I expected. The author had done a few virtual events just before ours, so she was comfortable with the format.
Have you laid off any of your employees?
Before the coronavirus I had seven employees, all part time. Most were retirees or parents of school-aged children. I gave everyone the option to stay on and help with various tasks, like book deliveries, but most chose to stop working and stay home. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do from home with a retail store. A few are writing book reviews and helping with our newsletter, ordering and social media.
How will things be different when you reopen?
We hope to reopen partially in mid-May, but I think we’ll reduce our hours. The main reason we’re open late at night is because of the restaurants, but I’m not sure what the dining scene in Wayne will look like. We’ll only allow a limited number of people in the store at once, and it might be curbside pickups for awhile. I also took out the kids’ section temporarily. I want my employees to feel safe and comfortable, and one of my biggest concerns is that they won’t want to return.
How confident are you that your shop will survive?
Well this definitely won’t be our best year ever, but I didn’t get into this because I thought I’d get rich. We have every intention of becoming a gathering place for authors, book clubs and readers again; I’m just not sure how long that will take…six months, two years, who knows?
Have customers’ book tastes changed since the pandemic?
Oh yes. People are buying more “project books,” meaning books they’ve always wanted to read but never had the time. Books like War and Peace and Anna Karenina. We’re also selling lots of cookbooks, cocktail books and a ton of kids’ books. There’s less demand for political books. I do think people are reading more, since they have more time. Our book clubs are virtual now [through Zoom], and we have more people logging on. They can join a book club during their lunch break then get back to work, without ever having to leave their desk.
Visit Main Point Books at mainpointbooks.com or follow the store on Facebook (@MainPointBooks), Twitter (@MainPoint_Books) and Instagram (@mainpointbooks).