As life in the areas devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey slowly returns to normal, PW reached out to local bookstores to find out how they were impacted by the storms, and to see what their expectations are for the upcoming holiday season.

At Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida, Laura Taylor says that storm itself didn’t have much effect on them. “We closed for three days, and while our staff had its own constraints and issues with their homes and cars, our building itself sustained very little damage. Electricity in the area was the main problem, but we never lost power.

“Of course business dropped—closing for a weekend was a problem—but I would say that here in Tampa, everyone was back on schedule relatively quickly, especially once schools were back in session and people had returned to work. And this month we’re back on track.”

Taylor noted that Oxford Exchange is a bit of a tourist destination and did suffer a slight drop in business the first couple of weeks after the storm, but compared to a place like Key West, people are not shying away from visiting Tampa. Talking about the upcoming season, she says: “Endurance is one of the titles we think will do very well for us, along with Little Fires Everywhere, Manhattan Beach, and The Last Castle. “We’re back in the stream of things, business is picking up, and we’ve very much looking forward to the holidays.”

At Punta Gorda’s Copperfish Books, Serena Wycoff says that while the direct force of the storm was minimal, its effects are still much being felt. “The storm did not impact our store; we were very lucky. It was bit of a non-story for us. We did however lose a number of days in preparing the store, thinking about evacuation, and then putting it back together.”

She noted that for a while after the storm the focus of many people was on helping others further south who had taken a bigger hit from Irma. “In our area maybe people have decided to delay coming back for the season, or frankly , they have the impression that we were badly hit. A good part of our business is seasonal residents…they’re here from November until spring, as well as visitors…we need our visitors.”

Wycoff acknowledged that “our numbers are down from last year. At the same time, people will get back to normal, people will be coming back and they’ll be in the spirit. The period leading into {the holidays} is not where it was last year, but we’re confident it’s going to be a good holiday season. We’re particularly excited about Kelly’s book Endurance, as well as Tom Hank’s Uncommon Type. We think they’re both going to do very well.”

At Miami’s Books Books, Mitch Kaplan acknowledged that “Irma had quite an impact on us. It wasn’t necessarily physical damage that we suffered; it was more about economic damage. We were down around 4-5 days when we for closed for lack of power, and the whole region is just now emerging from the aftereffects of Irma.”

“September was really bad, Kaplan said, “we were off nearly 50% from the year before. It was a combination of a number of things: people weren’t shopping, a lack of tourism, and some areas didn’t have power for at least 2-3 weeks. We have stores all over Miami, so it affected all of them as well as our cafes.”

But Kaplan noted he is beginning to see a turnaround this month – while tourism in Miami Beach is still a bit soft, Kaplan predicted “I think we’ll have a good holiday season. Plus we have the Miami Book Fair starting up, so that should be really good. And all in all, when we look at the tragedy of Puerto Rico, what we went through pales in comparison.”

In the Houston area though, the recovery is decidedly mixed. At Paragraphs on Padre Boulevard on San Padre Island, co-owner Griff Mangan says that the store experienced no damage. In fact “We’ve had spillover business from damage further away. I hate to benefit from somebody else’s tragedy, but there it is.” Mangan is optimistic about the holiday season; “we’ve been extraordinarily busy for this time of year. We’ve been constant—it’s been good and it’ll get even busier.”

But at Lori’s Booknook in Rockport, there is no such happy ending. Lori Koviac told PW that her building was demolished: “There’s nothing there anymore. We’ve been trying to find another location, but the issue is that there are so many damaged buildings that are going to be torn down, and the ones that are available are very expensive. We’re just waiting and hoping, but it doesn’t look very good.

“We’re going to give it until February or March. Any of the buildings that are going to be repaired are going to be repaired by then—we’re living on insurance in the meantime.

“I owned the store with my mother, and we have no plans of moving out of Rockport. It looks like I’m going to have to get a real job.”

LEAVE A REPLY