Margaret Taylor sat on a chair, bent over the children’s book section of the store as she sorted through the books on a wooden shelf. She took a picture book from a tall stack sitting beside her, putting into place one of over 18,000 books on her shelves.
Taylor, 75, is the owner of the Book Corner, an independent, family-run bookstore in Bloomington. She’s been working there since the store opened in 1964.
While some local businesses, such as Darn Good Soup, have had to close as a result of the global pandemic, the Book Corner has managed to stay open.
They’re doing more online orders with curbside pickup, as well as mail-in orders.
“Our sales are just as strong as they were previously,” Taylor said.
As she sat in the narrow walls of her store, surrounded by rows of books, she said this was thanks to loyal customers and IU students in the Bloomington community.
“Books are a necessity in this town,” Taylor said.
It’s not only local residents that continue to support the Book Corner amidst COVID-19. Taylor said IU students have been ordering books from her store from all over the country.
Along with books, puzzle sales have been on the rise for the Book Corner.
“I’ve shipped puzzles to California, Florida, and Ohio,” Taylor said.
When COVID-19 first hit, Taylor said many of her employees were worried for their personal health.
“I didn’t have anybody working with me for six weeks because they wanted to stay home and see what was happening,” she said.
Another effect of the global pandemic is Monroe County’s mandate for mask wearing. On the door of the Book Corner, a sign reads, “No shoes, no shirt, no mask, no service! No kidding!”
Taylor said customers can bring their own mask or buy one at the Book Corner for a dollar, otherwise they are not allowed in the store. She said they haven’t had many issues with enforcement.
“I have had more people tell us they appreciate us asking people to leave,” Taylor said.
The global pandemic isn’t the first time the Bloomington community has come together to support the Book Corner.
Taylor said four years ago a fan had caught on fire and spread smoke throughout the store. The Book Corner closed for a month while the store was cleaned and repainted.
They had all of the books cleaned and sanitized and were able to reopen one week before Christmas.
Then, like now, she said the Bloomington community saved them. The day they opened, there were people waiting at the door, she said. It was some of the best sales they had ever had.
“You involve the community and they stepped up and helped us when we really needed it,” Taylor said, “That was quite touching.”
The customer base of the Book Corner is largely built on community, Taylor said. Right now, one of her bestselling books is “The Book of Delights” by IU English Professor Ross Gay.
Taylor said the Book Corner has plans to expand into another room. She said she gives her thanks to the Bloomington community for their continued support.
“We love Bloomington, we love the community and we love being here for people,” she said.
Despite having other employees to help her now, Taylor said she works seven days a week, 12 hours a day and another four hours at home. But she says she does it for the community.
“I don’t think a day goes by without one or two people saying thank you for being here,” Taylor said, “That’s my pay.”