Courtney Schlachter fills orders of secondhand books at Quiet City Books in downtown Lewiston on March 17. Schlachter started shipping “social distancing book boxes” when her business was forced to close because of the coronavirus. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Courtney Schlachter fills orders of secondhand books at Quiet City Books in downtown Lewiston. Schlachter started shipping “social distancing book boxes” when her business was forced to close because of the coronavirus. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Shortly before the coronavirus pandemic crushed many small businesses across Maine, Courtney Schlachter noticed book sales had begun to slow at her downtown Lewiston bookstore.

As news about the virus spread, Schlachter made the connection. “It occurred to me that people were not going out.”

It wasn’t long before businesses began to close.

“I realized that I needed to close my doors as well,” said the owner of Quiet City Books, a small, independent bookstore on Lisbon Street.

“The thought of losing income made me panic. I did not know what to do,” Schlachter said.

Two weeks after temporarily closing up shop, Schlachter has a new problem. Her shelves need more books.

“My book shelves are getting floppy,” she said.

With so many people home from work and school being canceled, people need books. And Schlachter is sending them books, one box at a time.

Owner Courtney Schlachter has “social distancing book boxes” ready to ship to her customers at Quiet City Books in Lewiston. Each box is filled with secondhand books. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“This is the ultimate way for me to recommend books.”

Customers email Schlachter what genre they enjoy reading and at what price they would like to spend. One customer said they like horror books, but not zombies. One student said he likes anything except “Harry Potter.”

Schlachter then fills a box with secondhand books and ships them to her customers.

“Social distancing book boxes,” as she calls them, have been such a big hit Schlachter is running low on books.

“This is a small batch,” she said about the stack of 11 boxes ready to ship out. “The last batch was 25 boxes,” she said.

Boxes of books have been shipped to California, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and New Jersey. Friends of Schlachter have purchased books and sent them to Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Utah. More than 25 local deliveries have been dropped off on local doorsteps by a volunteer courier.

“I love it,” Schlachter said. “They really want books now. People are home and looking for something to read. Teen books were a slow seller before all of this. But now that is one of the genres that I need to restock.”

“I don’t have much horror left or fantasy,” she said.

People often donate used books to Schlachter, but she had to stop accepting book donations because of the coronavirus. She is researching ways to safely accept donations.

Schlachter’s husband is working from home and her two children are home from school. Her son is teaching himself to play guitar and her daughter is learning to cook.

Courtney Schlachter is reading short stories by A. S. Byatt, but only in the evening because she’s too busy to read during the day.

“I was able to pay the rent for the month,” Schlachter said. I’m not panicking now.”

Courtney Schlachter looks for a book she hopes her long-distance customer will enjoy at Quiet City Books in downtown Lewiston on March 17. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo


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