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Curious Book Shop surviving quarantine with help of community and GoFundMe

Posted at 12:34 PM, Jan 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-06 12:34:52-05

LANSING, Mich. — Ray Walsh started selling books in East Lansing in the same year Apollo 11 went to the moon. Since 1969, Curious Book Shop in downtown East Lansing has been a staple in the community.

“I started selling science fiction paperbacks because that was what I was familiar with, and then there wasn’t any used bookshop in East Lansing or Lansing that handled that type of stuff. And so, I had a garage sale, and all of a sudden, I was swamped with people saying, 'Hey! Have you got any more?' And I said, 'Hmm..what can I do?' So I ran a classified ad and I came across a person with 1,000 science fiction paperbacks, and all of a sudden I was a book dealer," said Walsh, owner of Curious Book Shop and Archives Book Shop.

The year 2020, however, has been a challenging year for Walsh.

“Sales have been down significantly because we were closed for 3 months. And, fewer people are coming into downtown East Lansing, even though East Lansing is open, and there’s a lot of parking now, so," Walsh laughed. "But it certainly has been a memorable year in not a positive way.”

But, his employees and the East Lansing community have had his back.

“GoFundMe helped a lot. It helped us survive about 3 months. Something I really never thought I’d be doing but my employees suggested it, and I said, 'Okay, why don’t we try that…'

Two employees came up with the idea of a GoFundMe in early April after they saw an article about Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor doing something similar.

“So, my roommate and I – she also works at Curious – after everything shut down we were working from home, listing books online, but we wanted to figure out a way to kind of make up for the lack of foot traffic we’d be getting, because foot traffic is very important to the store’s livelihood,” said Casey Holland, who works at Curious Book Shop.

“...and we’ve been quite successful," Walsh added. "We’ve gotten over $28,000 in donations from it but, not exactly donations, because what we’re offering is the opportunity to get books for your money.”

Walsh and his team mail donors of $10 or more books related to their interests and equal to the value of their donation.

“And we’ve sent out over 150 packages,” Walsh said.

“So far it’s helped a lot – when we were shut down, it definitely helped like, pay the employees, keep the lights on, and keep the store open and functioning,” Holland said.

Curious Bookshop also gained some national and international attention after it was featured in a Buzzfeed article of 35 bookstores in the U.S. that were doing a GoFundMe campaign.

“The Buzzfeed article that came from that also brought a lot of attention to our online stores, and online sales started going way up from where they were before," Holland said.

Curious Bookshop can be found on GoFundMe, Facebook and Etsy.

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