While the full extent of the damage caused by Hurricane Irma is still unknown, some bookstores in Florida are reporting that they are open for business. Others, however, are dealing with power outages and uncertainty about if, and when, they will be able to turn the lights back on.
Sally Bradshaw, owner of Midtown Reader in Tallahassee, said she was without power for two days. "Now we’re taking all the plywood off the windows and moving books back into place. We got lucky. The storm kind of went around us, [issuing] no damage to our inventory or the store. It was a scary once-in-a-lifetime storm."
Laura Taylor, director of the Oxford Exchange bookstore in Tampa, said her store is reopening today. "We did a lot of prep and didn’t suffer too much damage," she said, adding that the biggest hurdle right now is with her staff, many of whom are "stranded" and facing issues ranging from lack of gas to loss of power.
Serena Wyckoff, co-owner of Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, expressed relief that her biggest issue is that she is without electricity. "Our hanging sign blew down," she said, noting that this was the worst of the damage the store suffered. "This week we already planned to be closed for a bit of vacation and some store projects. The vacation is cancelled, and we are assessing whether we'll open later this week. Still want to get some projects done."
Although a number of Florida bookstores PW reached out to did not respond to calls or inquiries via social media, other re-openings were confirmed. Inkwood Books in Tampa announced on Facebook that it is open for business today. As is Murder by the Beach in Delray Beach, which is still without phone or Internet service.
Wanda Jewell, executive director of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, confirmed that the organization's Discovery Show, set to open in New Orleans on Thursday, is going ahead as planned. Jewell also said that a number of Florida booksellers in Irma's path even evacuated to New Orleans specifically to attend the show. Among the evacuees who plan to attend the Discovery show are booksellers from the Writer's Block Bookstore in Winter Park, just outside Orlando.
Any updates about the show, Jewell noted, will be posted to the SocialLink mobile app the organization uses to communicate with its members.
While a handful of Florida booksellers will make the show, many will not. "So much depends on whether or not the airports will be open in time for people to fly," Jewell said. "I'm not sure we're going to see people from Books & Books [in Miami], for example." The airport in Miami is currently closed, having sustained damage, and it is not likely to reopen before the end of the week. "I'm really thinking that maybe we should move the show out of hurricane season," Jewell added.