Berkeley bookstores adjust business models amid COVID-19 pandemic

Photo of Moe's Books
Vivian Roan/File
Moe's Books is operating with a smaller staff than usual to accommodate employees who are older and do not feel comfortable being near people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Berkeley bookstores are adjusting to COVID-19 by changing their hours, crowdfunding and using personal protective equipment, or PPE.

Moe’s Books, Half Price Books and Pegasus Books are just a few of the Berkeley bookstores trying to stay afloat. Tim Rogers, manager of the Downtown Berkeley location of Pegasus Books, said that after the stay-at-home orders were issued in mid-March by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Pegasus closed for a few weeks. Pamela Yamamoto, the California district manager for Half Price Books, said the Berkeley location had to close its doors around that time as well.

“People definitely still need to read books during this time,” Rogers said.

Yamamoto said that Half Price Books was able to fulfill online orders during the time that it was closed. The lack of students and commuters, however, has affected how much traffic the store gets.

Rogers said during the time Pegasus Books was closed it was also able to fulfill online orders by delivering books and allowing curbside pickup, eventually reopening its doors.

According to Yamamoto, Half Price Books reopened its Berkeley location on June 19. Now, it is requiring employees and customers to wear masks, lowering in-store capacity and offering curbside pickup.

Rogers said the main adjustments made were that employees and customers need to wear masks, and the store is only allowing six to 10 customers in the shop at a time.

Rogers added that Pegasus is currently working with about half of its original staff and that many employees have been temporarily laid off.

Doris Moskowitz, owner of Moe’s Books, said much of the staff at Moe’s Books are older and are uncomfortable being around people. This means that they have a much smaller staff than usual, and Moskowitz added that those working “need more rest.”

Moskowitz said she is also requiring everyone to wear PPE and use hand sanitizer.

According to Moskowitz, there is a GoFundMe where community members can donate to support the bookstore.

“We jumped at the chance to let people in here to experience some of the comfort that only a bookstore can provide,” Moskowitz said in an email. “Moe’s Books is big enough for people to have plenty of space around them and they seem really happy when they are here.”

Rogers said a next step might be going back to regular hours if there is enough interest, and then Pegasus Books might be able to hire back some employees.

Rogers added that he was also interested to see what the Christmas season will look like and if things will get busier.

“As Moe’s daughter, I can not imagine not being here doing everything I can do to stay open.” Moskowitz said in an email.

Contact Mela Seyoum at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @melaseyoum.