The bad news coming out of the Book Catapult in San Diego’s South Park neighborhood is that co-owner Seth Marko underwent emergency surgery immediately following his return home from Winter Institute 14 in Albuquerque, after suffering chest pains while there. Plus, the two-year-old store’s only full-time employee, Vanessa Diaz, came home from WI14 with a case of bird flu, or as she called it, “the Albuquerque swine flu.”
The good news is that six booksellers from four other San Diego-area bookstores—The Library Shop, Warwick’s Bookshop, the University of California-San Diego’s bookstore, and Adventures by the Book—have volunteered their time for more than a week to keep the Book Catapult open during its regular hours, while Marko’s spouse, store co-owner Jennifer Powell, tends to him. (Marko left the hospital Wednesday). Another pair of booksellers, John Evans and Alison Reid, the two co-owners of Diesel: A Bookstore in Los Angeles, have committed to volunteering at the Book Catapult this weekend.
“It’s a story of redemption and hope,” joked Library Shop manager Scott Ehrig-Burgess, who coordinated the volunteers and, he says, trained them on the store’s POS system “even with my remedial knowledge.” Burgess said that he took the lead in organizing and training the volunteers because it was “a good way not to stress out about Seth being in the hospital, as we’re doing something about it.” Ehrig-Burgess and Marko worked together for 10 years at Warwick’s, and have remained friends since.
“I’ve had to turn away volunteers, from former booksellers to people who know nothing about books but want to help out,” Ehrig-Burgess said. “We’re a close-knit community.”
As for Evans, he says that he and Reid are driving down from L.A. to help out because Marko and Powell "are great people, fellow booksellers, [who] created a wonderful bookstore in their neighborhood and this health crisis just came out of nowhere. They are much-loved in the book community in Southern California, with Seth having various roles over the years in keeping the book culture vital, fun, and interesting."
Andrea Vuleta, the head of the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association, told PW, “I am so pleased to see such warmth, community, and fellowship among our bookseller membership. I think it is one of best things about indies, the mutual support. Definitely something to be thankful for these days."
On Thursday, Diaz was recovered enough from her illness to return to work, although the volunteer network remains in place for the time being. "I'm still figuring out what the heck happened while I was out," she said, when asked how sales were during her absence.
Update: Marko is also a full-time house field sales rep for Ingram Publisher Services. Other IPS personnel are "pitching in," according to a company representative, to cover Marko's territory on the West Coast while he is on medical leave.