Nearly four weeks into the government shutdown, some bookstores in the nation’s capital are beginning to experience the financial effects of the federal furlough, while others remain unscathed.
In the Capitol Hill neighborhood, East City Bookshop owner Laurie Gillman saw little difference in sales during the first weeks of the shutdown. This week, though, Gillman is seeing a change. “Although our sales numbers are good, we are starting to hear from people who'd like to wait to pick up special orders from the end of 2018,” Gillman said. “Basically people [are] trying not to spend anything extra.”
To help counter the effects, East City has started discounting books 10% for furloughed workers, and the store also hosted a 20% off gathering with wine for customers on Wednesday.
Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café, in DuPont Circle, is also offering promotions on food and drinks for federal workers. The promotion, however, is not enough to offset the effects in this tourist-heavy area of the city. Kramerbooks spokeswoman Leah Frelinghuysen said, “[sales] traffic has been affected from the drop-in tourism as a result of the museums being closed, government contractors not traveling to D.C., and furloughed employees.”
In the H Street Corridor northeast of the capital, Solid State Books co-owner Jake Cumsky-Whitlock is seeing a direct impact. “The good news is we've seen an uptick in daytime traffic, with presumably furloughed folks grabbing a coffee and working at their computers,” Cumsky-Whitlock said. “The bad news is our check averages and book sales are down.”
At Georgetown’s Bridge Street Books, manager Rod Smith said that a number of factors make it difficult to see any change. Most importantly, with essential personnel still being paid, Smith said Georgetown’s government employees are almost certainly unaffected by the shutdown. “Any government worker who can afford Georgetown rent is going to keep getting that check,” Smith said. With students at nearby Georgetown University starting a new semester and an expected dip in sales following the holiday season, Smith said it’s too early to early to see any change that could be attributed to the shutdown, but that if sales do not rise by February, he will start to be concerned.
In nearby Arlington, some customers at One More Page have been buying more books just to stock up while on furlough. Book buyer Lelia Nebeker said that one furloughed customer’s sister called from out of state to have a bottle of wine delivered during a book reading. “She knew how hard it was for her sister with the shutdown and wanted to do something special to make her night.”