It's National Small Business Week and, especially after the festivities of Independent Bookstore Day, we've been reflecting a bit lately on what it means to be a small business that survived the pandemic.

Brilliant Books storefrontFirst and foremost, we're incredibly grateful.  We recently started gearing up for the return of our Find Waldo Local scavenger hunt (more news on that soon!), and flipping through all the old passports featuring downtown businesses really drove home how many of our neighbors have closed their doors for good.  There, but for the grace of a legion of incredible supporters, go we!  This would have been impossible without your determined support throughout lockdowns, shortages, postal meltdowns, and more, and we can't thank you enough.

Outwardly, signs of the pandemic are dwindling.  We no longer require masks, though we still have them available and our staff continue to wear them if they prefer.  We no longer have to monitor our building capacity or fumble around clear plexiglass dividers.  Shipping delays and supply chain disruptions are still a daily ordeal, but now they're for specific titles or items instead of practically everything.  Thanks to the vaccines, there's less worry now that an exposure could mean serious illness or death for us or our loved ones, which is perhaps the biggest relief of all.

But not all the difficulties have eased.  For us, as for many small businesses, the pandemic ate away at our reserves, mentally, physically, and financially.  Rent on the store went up 20% and we had to add additional office space in the building next door to accommodate our increased shipping needs now that so much of our business has moved online.  The financial cushion we normally build up during the summer and holiday season has been thinner these past few years due to minimal tourism.  Our staffing costs are much higher—we've always believed in paying our booksellers well for their expertise, but in today's competitive staffing environment, we've raised wages further to keep pace with expectations.  Even the slow start to spring weather has made the last few weeks extra grim for us, not only due to lack of sunshine, but to the lack of visitors that normally accompany it.Brilliant Books doors open

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a slow, prolonged natural disaster and, like so many such disasters, now that things are looking up, we wish we could just put it behind us and move on.  The storm is over; the fires are out.  But as anyone who has survived such a cataclysm will tell you, the hardest part is yet to come.  The fight to survive might be over, but there's still a lot of healing left to do before things feel "normal" again.  

So this year for Small Business Week, do your community a favor.  Look back on the places that you supported when things were at their worst, and, if you can, support them now, too.  We've all come this far together and that's exactly how we mean to continue.  If we're one of the businesses you can't imagine your community without, then we are grateful and humbled and will do our best to live up to your faith in us.

Here's what you can do to help:

And, of course, if you wanted to get a couple new books or start that subscription you've been eyeing, that wouldn't hurt either.

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