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Sugar House Journal

The King’s English Bookshop hopes early holiday shopping, donations can help business stay afloat during pandemic

Oct 05, 2020 15h09 ● By Drew Crawford

The King’s English Bookstore would regularly host local author events like this children’s book author Mac Barnett in 2016. (File photo City Journals)

By Drew Crawford | [email protected]

Utah is home to many gems and the beloved King’s English Bookshop is one of them. Nestled in the heart of Sugar House, the independent bookstore has been matching books to readers since 1977. 

When the COVID-19 lockdown ended and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert allowed businesses to reopen, Betsy Burton the cofounder of the store, made the tough decision to not resume in-person shopping due to the shop’s small dimensions that made social distancing impossible.

Consequently, with its paycheck protection program money spent and sinking book sales, in the fall 2020 edition of its newsletter, “The Inkslinger,” The King’s English announced that it found itself in a dire financial state.

In efforts to generate revenue and maintain operations, the store is asking community members to donate $100 a month or do their holiday shopping early. 

“We are prepared to offer some pretty extraordinary personal shopping experiences, albeit over the phone, but some of our most experienced booksellers are here during the day strictly to help people choose books,” Rob Eckman, the shop’s marketing manager, said. 

“In normal times we all kind of detested the idea of Christmas in October, but we’re encouraging it in September, and thinking that if we can make even as half as much as we normally would in a December that that would help buoy us for some time.”

In order to support their efforts in early holiday bookselling the store has developed a convenient method for customers to obtain their books. After ordering online, or over the phone, patrons can go to a pick-up tent at the backdoor to receive their order. Additionally, those interested in finding a new read can knock on the backdoor for support from staff. 

“One of our booksellers will come out safely with masks and talk to you about the books you’re looking for, what your interests are just like we would person to person in the store, but then with that information we come back in and we’ll bring out a handful of books for you to look at and see if any of those resonate,” Eckman said.

Although Eckman admits that this COVID-friendly version of selling books does not fit customer’s preferences of having the experience of shopping in the unique environment of the store he is enthusiastic about the outpouring of support that the bookstore has received since its request for help.

“People’s support has been tremendous,” Eckman said and described how he has received emails from around the world. 

“I got a Christmas shopping list yesterday from somebody in Alaska who has never been to our store, but their sister loves our store and told her family,” Eckman said. 

Support of locals readers has been important, too, as Sugar House residents have also been more than eager to help.

“On Tuesday this week there was a knock at the back door and it was a mother and a group of neighborhood kids who wanted to set up a lemonade stand on the corner as a fundraiser for us,” Eckman said. “They stood out there in the sun and sold lemonade until it was gone and knocked on the door and proudly gave us every penny that they made.”

As cooler weather approaches, The King’s English plans to continue to change its business model. Currently, anyone who is interested in supporting the shop can find holiday order forms online at kingsenglish.com or donate with a preferred payment method. Additionally, one can follow The King’s English Bookshop page on Facebook where you can watch live virtual readings of children’s books or listen to book reviews by the booksellers. 

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