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‘Then COVID hit’: Calgary small bookstores celebrate pandemic survival – Calgary

Owl’s Nest Books in southwest Calgary had a busy day on Friday with people stopping by to buy books.

“I actually read a lot more than before the pandemic,” said customer Richard Oppenhiem. “It’s a bit of an escape.”

Staff prepared for a special event that weekend, joining nearly 90 other stores across the country for Canadian Independent Bookstore Day.

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“Much of this is to celebrate our customers who went through everything that happened to us in the past year,” said Kristi Weisgerber, manager of Owl’s Nest Books.

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After nearly half a century of selling books in Calgary, the store has seen no shortage of fighting lately.

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“At the end of 2019 we actually shrunk to half our size and were not sure whether we would make it another year in view of Amazon and their cheap everything,” said Weigerber.

“Then COVID struck and people were looking for that hometown note.”

Many customers switched to ordering online through the store’s website and stopped by the roadside or made purchases in-store.

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“Our whole family believes in helping the local business and trying to keep our money in the community,” said customer Marilyn Oshry.

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The store’s staff say living amid COVID-19 restrictions was a factor that attracted some shoppers.

“With everyone at home now, desperate to get off the computer after spending all day in Zoom meetings, they’re looking for books and puzzles,” said Weisgerber.

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Many customers say they are doing everything they can to support local businesses struggling to survive the pandemic.

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“It’s hugely important because a small bookstore goes way beyond just selling books,” said customer Brigid Stewart.

“They support local writers, (they) have frequent readings.”

Owl’s Nest and other independent bookstores try to accommodate restrictions as best they can.

“All of the events that we would be doing in-store are now being done online,” said Weisgerber. “We’re bringing our entire community together with all of our local writers.”

Canadian Independent Bookstore Day takes place on Saturday, April 24th. Contact the event organizer, the Canadian Independent Booksellers Association, for more information.

Weisgerber is grateful for the opportunity to celebrate after addressing all of the challenges running a business during the pandemic.

“Thanks to the community here we are strong.”

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