Local independent bookstores all across the nation fought for survival during the COVID-19 pandemic. One that’s made it to the present day has been Canyon Country’s own The Open Book.
“We are a used bookstore, we call it new, like new, and gently used,” explained store manager Diana Roach. As one of the only second-hand bookstores in the city, it offers a wide variety of reads at affordable prices, even including discounted records, CDs and DVDs.
Like most small businesses, The Open Book faced many obstacles as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. Last April, the store had to shut down completely. A month later, they were able to reopen, but were limited to doing business through curbside pickups.
Despite this challenge, Roach said the support the store received from people in the community was a huge help.
“We just had this amazing response from our customer base who wanted to buy a lot of books just for the sake of supporting us and making sure we survived… We were very very fortunate on how well we did during that time and it’s been ongoing,” Roach said.
This last year has been very unpredictable for everyone, she added, noting also that the restrictions have been tough.
“We had to limit how many people were in the store for a while there, we were doing temperature checks for probably the whole year, as well as requiring gloves.” However, she said “doing that for a while, it made it safe here and it made a lot of people feel safe to come in and that was more of our priority than anything. I wanted to make sure our staff and customers felt safe coming in during a very confusing time… [also] being a bookstore, we can’t exactly spray down our stuff because it will be a little damaged.”
The store’s online presence, with a heavy reliance on social media, kept business running for The Open Book.
“That kind of became our saving grace, in a way, because we were able to post our stock and show people what we had and they were basically shopping from home,” Roach added.
But there are always challenges when running a business virtually.
“We really tried to meet people halfway as much as we could and that became a bit of a challenge because a lot of people did want to come in. One of the best things about being in a bookstore is browsing the shelves and that’s hard to do if it’s through social media or something like that,” she said.
Roach expressed excitement of Los Angeles County’s restrictions being lifted, the result of being in the “yellow tier.” A slow reopening of the county means stores across the region allows for more interaction with customers.
“Before the pandemic, we had all kinds of things… we had storytime for kids every week, we’d do open mic nights, we had workshops we would do for different kinds of crafts. Of course, with the pandemic, we had to stop all of them, but now that things are opening up again we’re hoping to bring back some of them at least,” she said.
Easing of restrictions is allowing The Open Book to begin having in-store author signings, which it has been hosting virtually for the last few months. It was also able to hold a “Star Wars”-themed event for kids called “The Open Book: The First Awakens” on Saturday, May 1 (three days before “Star Wars Day”).
“It was the first event we’ve done since the pandemic, really. We had a few franchise-based events in the past, we’ve been pretty well known for a Harry Potter event, so we wanted to do something else that’s really popular right now. We kind of adapted what we usually did for our Harry Potter event where we would have the free books for kids, [we] would have activities and crafts… Adapting it for COVID, instead of having the crafts you would do in the store, we just had little to-go bags so they could take it and go home and do the craft themselves.”
During that event, Roach said she saw something amazing happen during the event and described how “on multiple occasions throughout the day, these kids would win [a] prize [during our trivia], but then they’d just give it to another kid they didn’t even know, they would just give it away, and it was the sweetest, nicest thing to see and it just warmed my heart. Those kids coming out of being quarantined for a year, their instinct is to be generous and kind and it was really uplifting and a lot of fun.”
One way The Open Book is returning to their pre-pandemic normal is they are continuing to bring back certain store programs, namely their buyback program
Anyone who is interested in clearing out unwanted books is encouraged to take part in this opportunity. Roach added, “Now we have a program where people can set up an appointment and they can bring in their books, up to 20 titles, and then we’ll look through them, we’ll see what we can take and then we give store credit for everything we take.”
Not only does the buyback give book lovers an incentive, but it helps out the store too.
“It’s a great way for us to get hot, new titles,” she said. “Sometimes newer titles take a longer time to come our way because we are second-hand, but people sometimes bring them in for a buyback and it goes straight up on our shelf. It works out perfectly.”
The store aims to continue to be as community-based as it can.
“Primarily, we try to be like a community hub for people,” says Roach. “We’ve got a little bit of everything here, we try to have a pretty eclectic selection as well as the hot stuff. A little something for everybody. Santa Clarita is pretty diverse in its tastes and ideas. I think people who come in here are definitely bound to find something.”
The Open Book is located on 19188 Soledad Canyon Rd. To learn more about the store’s recent and upcoming activities, check out their Facebook page.