I AM Books: Always Forward

Apr 20, 2020 1012

BY: Nicola Orichuia and Jim Pinzino

In Italian, we say "sempre avanti" — always forward, no matter what. That is what we've been telling ourselves these past few days, even as we received bad news about the government's Paycheck Protection Program. We had applied for the loan on day one, sent all the requested documentation, and our application had been pre-approved. But on Friday morning, we were told the $349 billion allocated by Congress had been depleted

The reason we were counting on the funding was the same reason hundreds of bookstores (and millions of small businesses) across the country applied for PPP: The funds are critical to weather the system-shattering storm that has hit the economy due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

To put things into perspective, between when we closed the store on March 12 and April 17, we have registered a 63 percent decrease in sales compared to the same period last year. For the first two weeks of April, despite strong online sales, we are down more than 70 percent compared to the first half of April 2019. Book sales at Eataly, where we help manage the bookstore area, have basically dropped to zero.

In normal circumstances, these numbers would have been a clear signal for us to close for good and pack our stuff. But these are not normal times. It is actually in times of such great adversity and pain that one must find that extra bit of energy, rekindle the passion and spirit that were the driving force for the project in the first place. Because no one knows how it will all end, and how our economy will be once it is all over. But we need to do all that is in our power to keep the dream alive. 

To do this, we are working on several fronts to make sure online sales stay strong, and we are reaching out to schools and colleges across the country to let them know we can provide books for them, especially if in Italian. 

We have also taken the decision to increase once again our fundraising goal on GoFundMe. Many bookstores across the country have followed our lead, launching successful campaigns. We never asked for more than we strictly needed to pay rent and part of payroll, and now that Gov. Baker has extended non-essential business closures until May 15, it means that by then we will have gone through more than two months with our doors closed.

But those doors will reopen. Because we are determined, and because we are deeply committed to the idea that I AM Books is more than a bookstore — it is a vital community space for gathering and sharing ideas, as well as sustaining literature and knowledge. It is a bright star of cultural energy. A star that needs to be in place, for when this is all over.

Grazie mille, thank you,


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