Bibliophiles, rejoice: You can browse the shelves at Well Read Books once more.
Fulton's only used bookstore recently reopened to customers following the end of Missouri's stay-at-home order, with a few precautions in place.
"I'm glad to be back," owner Rebecca Morgan said. "I'm not someone who can work from home — it's difficult to keep your work/life balance in check."
To keep the business afloat during its month-long closure, Morgan took a page from other bookstores around the country that have found creative ways to stay connected with customers. In addition to offering gift certificates, she started selling grab-bags. For as little as $10, plus 99 cents for shipping, she and her employee will round up a curated selection of books themed to fit the reader's taste.
"They contact us and say whether they want a $10 or $20 bag, then we find out what genres they do and don't like to read and put a bag together based on their interests," Morgan explained. "For some of my regular customers, I've put bags together based on what I know they like to read."
She always tries to include a new or obscure author — someone worth discovering — alongside the usual faves.
"The bags have been surprisingly popular," she said.
Common requests include mystery, romance and children's books.
"We've done a few for folks who are isolated in nursing homes but also some for people who are treating themselves," Morgan said. "Reading's a great way to pass the time."
She's also joined Bookshop.org, billed as an Amazon alternative where small local bookstores can list their inventory. Bookshop.org gets a cut each time one of her books sells through the platform, which means it's not ideal as a sole income source, Morgan said.
The shutdown wasn't entirely without gilded-edging. Because she hasn't had to staff the store, Morgan's had time to catch up on her own reading.
"I've always been a voracious reader, but lately, I've had more time to indulge in it," she said. "I love this store and I love seeing the people who come in, but it doesn't leave much time for reading."
Adrian McKinty's Sean Duffy mystery series is a recent favorite, she said — the Irish Troubles provide a rich backdrop for the novels.
"I also re-read 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,' which I believe I first read in middle school," Morgan added. "It still speaks now just as much as it did then and when it was written."
Now that Well Read Books is open to customers again, Morgan's put a few safety measures in place. She's limiting the number of customers inside the building and has asked shoppers to call before dropping by (573-642-6181). Each time a customer enters or leaves, Morgan is bleaching the door. She's also "strongly encouraging" customers to wear a face mask while inside.
"We're open for our regular hours now, but I'm keeping my eye on (positive tests reported in the area)," Morgan said. "If those numbers change, our hours will change, too."
You can find Well Read Books online at bookshop.org/shop/wellreadbooks.