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Following its 50th anniversary, The Bookloft looks to the community for support

Bookloft owner Giovanni Boivin told The Berkshire Edge that while they did have some great weekends, like the 50th anniversary weekend and Indie Bookstore Day, “general sales for the last six months have been pretty low. Even for the quiet season, it's been extra quiet.

Great Barrington — Shortly after celebrating its 50th anniversary in May, The Bookloft unveiled a $100,000 GoFundMe campaign to “Help Keep the Bookloft Aloft” in light of declining revenue.

Giovanni Boivin, the owner of Great Barrington’s independent bookstore since late 2022, told The Berkshire Edge that while they did have some great weekends, like the 50th anniversary weekend and Indie Bookstore Day, “general sales for the last six months have been pretty low. Even for the quiet season, it’s been extra quiet. So we’re just not hitting those numbers we were used to, or getting the sales that we were used to.”

Boivin isn’t sure what to attribute the decline to, but wonders if, given the overall global economy, “people are being a little more cautious about wanting to go out and spend their money on what can be considered luxury items.”

Studies show that independent bookstores are on the rise, he notes, but that trend may not reflect this past year. Matt Tannenbaum of The Bookstore in Lenox also mentioned that it was a quiet season, Boivin says.

During COVID, Tannenbaum set up a GoFundMe to save The Bookstore, raising around $125,000, double his initial goal of $60,000. Boivin says it is not uncommon for bookstores to try to find alternative sources of funding. There are investors that work with indie bookstores to provide low-interest capital for stores that are struggling. John Valpe is one often mentioned in the newsletter of The New England Independent Bookstore Association, and he is a resource Boivin may reach out to again in the future.

The Bookloft raised about $8,000 in the first week of the GoFundMe, via both large and small donations, but donations then started to trickle a bit, said Boivin. As of July 2, the campaign stood at $10,682, just past 10 percent of their goal.

The feedback that Boivin heard was positive, along the lines of “good for you for reaching out; we want to make sure that The Bookloft stays alive because it’s great to have an independent bookstore in a small town.”

Sales have also seen a boost since the campaign started, said Boivin. “Almost overnight, general sales online and in store increased drastically.”

The GoFundMe campaign states, “Of course, the best way to support us is by purchasing your books, cards, and games from us directly … Your contribution, be it in the form of a purchase or a donation, will help The Bookloft thrive and grow.”

Initially, Boivin was going to ask for $50,000, the amount that “would have gotten us back on our feet.” But he decided that would be the temporary fix. “If we have another slow season like we did this past year, we might be in the same situation again next year, so I decided to double it.” The $100,000 request helps Boivin “kind of put something aside as a nest egg, making sure that if we do end up in a quiet season, we have something to fall back on.”

The funds will go toward general operating costs. “If we don’t meet our goals,” said Boivin, “I have to look at what the future of the store is.” He may have to make significant financial cuts, such as reducing their hours or days of the week or cutting back on staff. Currently, The Bookloft employs seven people.

Giovanni Boivin, who has owned The Bookloft since 2022, says that if they are not able to meet their fundraising goals, he may have to look at making financial cuts, including reducing the store’s operating hours or days of the week or cutting back on staff. Photo by Kateri Kosek.

Boivin may have to cut down on stock as well. “So we may not have the wide selection of stuff that we do in the future. And it may be difficult for us to get certain things in that people want.”

Along with the GoFundMe campaign, Boivin is working to draw attention to the store, drawing crowds for either in-store or off-site events. He is trying to connect with publishers to bring more big-name authors to the store, such as last February’s event with Terry Hayes, whose highly anticipated new thriller “Year of the Locust” was released with Simon & Schuster.

Boivin has a connection with Dennis Lehane (“Mystic River,” “Shutter Island”) and is working out the details for an event with him in late August.

On September 22, Alaina Urquhart, who wrote the New York Times bestseller “The Butcher and the Wren,” will come to The Bookloft. Her follow-up book “The Butcher Game” actually covers a lot of ground in the southern Berkshires, with settings such as Lake Garfield, the Great Barrington Fairgrounds, and Ashintully.

Boivin also hopes to continue to grow the partnerships The Bookloft has with area organizations. They have collaborated with Hevreh for off-site event selling several times, and have been working with The Triplex Cinema for certain movies and talks. They brought Berkshire Drag Story Hour to the shop for Pride Month and would love to be able to do more with them. They also have a partnership in the works providing books for Tanglewood’s Learning Institute.

“We just don’t want to lose out to Amazon. We want to be around for another 50 years,” said Boivin. “And we offer that personal touch that you don’t get from online shopping. We’ve got the staff picks, the extensive children’s book selection, a wide variety of cards, tabletop games for kids and families … a lot of stuff that will appeal to a lot of people.”

For more information on The Bookloft and its campaign, visit its website.

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