Hello I am Zin and this is a story that has a sad beginning but a warm and hopeful middle and I believe it will have a happy ending!
You probably know we had a big storm here that started on Friday, February 8 and went for two days. Maine got a record snowfall of 31+ inches! We had the usual problems we have with snow. But Longfellow Books, my Fiercely Independent Community Bookseller, had some extra problems beyond too much snow!
First the storm blew in a window on the second floor of the building above the bookstore and snow blew in and melted and dripped through the ceiling into the bookstore!
Second, the pipes in the building froze!
Third, because the pipes froze, the sprinkler system went off and water sprayed all over the books!
This set off all kinds of alarms but there was a blizzard out there! So it took time for the store owners to get there and I am surprised they were able to, but they were, and the fire department was there already, they had broken in the back and covered some of the books with tarps and were carrying books out of the store to save them! Firemen saving books!
“It was a reverse ‘Fahrenheit 451,'” Bowe said, referring to Ray Bradbury’s 1953 science fiction classic, in which books are outlawed and burned by firemen.
That sounds like a book person!
About half of the 30,000 books were ruined! They hope insurance will pay for most of that but they have also been closed for a week and they expect to be open only sporadically for at least another week!
But like the sign in the window says: Keep Calm and Turn the Page.
That sounds like a book person, too!
This bookstore was voted Portland Icon in 2012 so Portland is helping! The Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance has arranged two events and a third way to help:
First, a Cash Mob on Saturday, March 2, for people to show up at the store and buy books! They can also buy Great Flood 2013 Gift Certificates for later on if they do not need any books right now! I know I am going to need some books later this year so I think I will get one!
Second, a Panel Discussion at the wonderful SPACE Gallery on Sunday, March 3: FLOODED: An Outpouring of Literary Conversation in Support of Longfellow Books! Richard Russo and Monica Wood will talk about memoir, and Ron Currie Jr. and Bill Roorbach will talk about fiction – all Maine writers, all who have given readings and talks at the bookstore in the past, three of them I have read, two of them appear in this blog! I have my ticket already! I bought it when I got the email announcing the event! And it is a good thing because three days later it is sold out!
Third, MWPA is collecting donations by PayPal and check until March 15!
It sounds crazy to give a donation to a private business but a retail business especially one as tenuous as a bookstore that must close for two weeks needs help and they are part of the community and hold so many wonderful events for free we must do something! The bookstore has been getting calls and Facebook queries asking how people can help so now they have three concrete ways to help!
The two owners Chris Bowe and Stuart Gerson were employees at Bookland (I did not know that) which was the bookstore that went out of business 13 years ago (I remember that) when Borders opened in South Portland so look who is still standing! They have held it together this long and they are not going to let a storm get in the way:
“Never underestimate the power of an independent bookstore,” [Bowe] said. “We have survived the chains. We have survived Amazon. We have survived the Kindles. The bookstore is one of those good places in the community. We will struggle, but we will get there.”
Again that sounds like a book person and I believe him!