Maybe this is just the nerdy bookworm in me, but it feels particularly heartbreaking to see a bookstore struggling. There are few commercial places in this world that hold so much inspiration, knowledge, whimsy and quaintness all rolled into one.
Independent bookstores have their own unique magic on top of that—providing their neighborhoods with a specially curated wonderland available nowhere else in quite the same way. To have that snatched away due to financial hardship is just…devastating.
This was the dire situation that England-based bookstore owner Sapphire Bates found herself in. Her shop, Book Bodega, endured an abysmal winter with very few sales. A photo Bates posted to Twitter on Feb 25 showed the shop completely empty—and on a weekend afternoon, no less.
Book Bodega needed to make £800 ($956) in three days just to pay the bills and keep its doors open. Knowing that wouldn’t happen without some kind of miracle, Bates made one last ditch effort of reaching out online. Little did she know just how many people would rush in to show support.
Using the hashtag #BookTwitter, Bates wrote, “We need your help! I run Book Bodega, an Indy bookshop in Ramsgate. Winter is killing us, it’s soo quiet & we need to make £800 by Tuesday to pay our bills. This is my current view = no customers. Please shop with us and help us stay open!”
#BookTwitter we need your help! I run Book Bodega, an Indy bookshop in Ramsgate. Winter is killing us, it’s soo quiet & we need to make £800 by Tuesday to pay our bills. This is my current view = no customers . Please shop with us and help us stay open!https://t.co/zeYYTLM7Qz pic.twitter.com/wNuUqjEqML
— Sapphire Bates (@sapphirejbates) February 25, 2023
It wasn’t long before the post went viral, spreading like digital wildfire throughout Twitter as people began advocating for Book Bodega.
“Instead of buying books from Amazon, let’s buy from an indy book store and keep the economy more local! Here’s a book shop that needs support!” one user wrote.
Authors began sharing Bates’ post on their own platforms, along with several other celebrities.
“Your shop looks beautiful! And this post gave me the perfect excuse to order a book from you for my sister,” author Hazel Gaynor wrote.
“Good luck! Your shop looks amazing and you all clearly have brilliant taste in books. We need you!” tweeted film producer Paul Fischer, along with a photo showing he had four Book Bodega items in his cart.
“No better time or place to order your next book,” added Tim Burgess, lead singer of the rock band The Charlatans.
Adam Kay, author of “Undoctored” and “This is Going to Hurt,” even offered to stop by and do an event.
I’ll come by and do an event for you later this year if that helps? DM me if so.
— Adam Kay (@amateuradam) February 25, 2023
Eventually, one Twitter user named Jamil Qureshi offered to pay the full amount, which Bates was thrilled by but felt was too big an offer.
However, in an interview with Insider, Bates shared that she and Qureshi were able to reach an agreement—Qureshi would donate £1,000 ($1,119), a third of which would go towards a profit for the store and the rest of which would pay for books for customers who can’t afford them, so they can still shop for their favorite titles. Sounds like the ultimate win-win-win, if you ask me.
On Feb 28, Bates announced to Twitter that Mission: Save Book Bodega was a glorious success.
Again, using the hashtag #BookTwitter, Bates wrote, “I just paid our bills that were due thank you SO much for your support, this has given me faith that we can do this.”
#BookTwitter I just paid our bills that were due 💛💛 thank you SO much for your support, this has given me faith that we can do this 💪🏼 . pic.twitter.com/laYw7zhd2b
— Sapphire Bates (@sapphirejbates) February 28, 2023
For Bates, the lesson of this situation has been two-fold. First, the internet can help people show up for one another in big ways.
“[I] didn’t really expect anything to come from it. That was in my head, the best-case scenario—never in a million years would I have guessed it would be seen by 6.1 million people,” she told Insider.
Second, she thinks that her miraculous rebound shows just how important it is to support small businesses.
“Please continue to support independents when you can,” she said. “They will definitely appreciate it.”