After going on five years of business in downtown Lafayette, Main Street Books is no stranger to weathering hard times.
But store owner Tamzin Malone said the conditions she’s working under with the pandemic have proven to be a new set of waves.
“Shifting from people in store to taking orders online is a learning curve,” Malone said this week. “It’s sort of like log rolling. So far I haven’t fallen into the water, but I was never really good at P.E.”
With Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s current restrictions on business operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, Main Street Books is offering online ordering and free delivery. Located at 426 Main St., Malone said the store is averaging seven to 10 deliveries a day.
“The idea just seemed pretty obvious. We have a web store where they can pay online. About a week before we closed the store on March 18, we began offering curbside pickup,” she said. “Then once we closed, that’s when we began delivering.”
But this isn’t the first time Malone has had to make do with her store’s current situation.
“When the city of Lafayette underwent the ‘Main Street Beautification’ project, which happened about a year into our tenure here, customers weren’t interested in crossing the moat that had been created in front of the store, so we offered delivery then, too,” she said. “Then, we would knock on the door and wait for the customer to answer so we could hand off the books, but now we send an email letting them know we are on our way, we knock on the door, set the order down and leave.”
Being an exclusive site for signed copies of James Breakwell’s newest book, “Prance Like No One’s Watching: A Guided Journal for Exploding Unicorns,” has created an uptick in sales, too, Malone said. Breakwell is a comedy writer best known for his Twitter account XplodingUnicorn.
“It’s been a wonderful boost for us,” she said. “And getting those out and in the mail has been my log-rolling adventure.”
Malone said she’s offering delivery to the cities of Lafayette and West Lafayette but has encountered some cornfields.
“I just go to MapQuest, type in the addresses, and it creates my own little route,” she said.
Though it isn’t known when Indiana’s restrictions on business operations will be lifted, Malone said she plans to keep going forward the best she can through delivery.
“Once we get James Breakwell’s new books out the door, I plan to offer a grab-bag style for customers,” Malone said. “So people can give me a genre they are interested in, and I can put together a certain dollar amount’s worth of surprises for you.”
With over 14,000 books in stock, Main Street Books likely has a variety for everyone, Malone said. Though she has seen many images on her Facebook timeline in recent days suggesting ways to support local businesses during the pandemic, she has a few ways customers can continue supporting their independent bookstores.
“One of the main ways to help is by buying a gift certificate, but another is buying books that we have in stock and don’t need to order,” Malone said. “Ordering new books is something that is a bit in the air right now because I don’t know how much longer my distributor will continue shipping. I still have books continuing to come in — and as long as that is happening, I will continue displaying them — but ordering new ones right now can be a pain. I don’t want to tell people to stop ordering what’s not in stock, but it is a lot more work for a small profit margin.”