Dear friends, effective immediately, I AM Books in Boston’s North End neighborhood will be closed for two weeks, to make sure our staff, our community, and our customers stay safe as the coronavirus pandemic puts everyone at risk. We hope to re-open on Friday, March 27. However, this is a tentative date, depending on how the spread of the virus progresses. We will move our re-opening to a future date if necessary. We are closely following updates from the CDC and the Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health. During our physical closure, our online store will be 100% operational and shipments will still be made on a daily basis.
We are a business, but we are a family first and foremost, and we must look after each other. After speaking with my business partner and all the staff, we have convened that the best thing to do in these trying times is not put anyone at risk. Therefore we are also canceling or postponing all events through the end of April.
Please do not take this as an excess of fear on our part, or a panic-driven decision. The majority of our staff is Italian (as am I), and we all have family and friends in Italy. We speak to them on a daily basis. Our beautiful country is being ravaged by the coronavirus. The region of Lombardia — one of the most industrious and wealthy regions of Europe, with some of the best hospitals in the world — is facing an unprecedented crisis, and the health system is on the verge of collapse due to the high number of critically ill patients that show up every day. The Italian government’s decision to lock down the country is not the result of mass hysteria, but the inevitable outcome necessary to contain the threat of this new and harmful virus.
Needless to say, this will all have a heavy impact on our small business. To give you just one example: We were looking forward to the New England Food Show between March 22-24, where we would have managed the bookstore for three days and handled all book signings. Last year, this event alone allowed us to make enough money to pay one month worth of rent and payroll. The event, for obvious and justifiable reasons, has been canceled, which also means we will not have that vital source of revenue we were counting on.
March is one of those months where we make just enough to scrape by, and it comes on the heels of January and February, the absolute worst months of the year, which regularly put us in a deep hole — a hole we are able to crawl out of during the summer, when we benefit from the influx of tourists coming to the North End from all over the country and the world. And how will that go? Will the global tourism machine be back on its feet by July, after being hit in such a devastating way by the coronavirus? We don’t know, which also means we don’t know when things will get better for our little bookstore.
But we must not lose hope. Throughout history, humanity has gone through trying times just like this one, if not worse. I think of Boccaccio and his Decameron, but also of Alessandro Manzoni, and his description of a plague-riddled Milan in The Betrothed. Times were desperate, but people managed to get through it and saw better days. If we act as a community and take care of each other, we will get out of this sooner rather than later.
If you want to help us get through these trying times, please consider donating $5 or $10 to our GoFundMe emergency campaign: https://www.gofundme.com/f/i-am-books-emergency-fund. We have set a goal of $5,000, which is basically what we would need to pay one month’s rent and also guarantee pay to our employees during that time.
You can also help by purchasing books from our website. Our online sales and shipping capacity will be 100% operational throughout the store closure.
We will get through this, together, and when it’s all over, we’ll meet again at I AM Books.
Until then, grazie. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Nicola OrichuiaCo-owner, I AM Books